My patients often ask me questions about cholesterol and how they can manage it. Some are anxious to find out whether their cholesterol is high or not, possibly triggered by a recent heart attack in the family or they’ve read an article in a magazine. It is important to realise that high cholesterol, particularly LDL cholesterol and Triglycerides can be damaging to the linings of your arteries, putting you at greater risk of developing heart attacks and strokes. Unfortunately high cholesterol doesn’t make you feel ill and therefore you may not even realise that your levels are high. Find out more about cholesterol and ways to lower it by reading all about it below and by watching my specially created videos. I try where possible to answer questions posted on Facebook and Twitter and through my day-to-day work as a GP.

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What are normal cholesterol values?

It is quite common for my patients to ask what the normal cholesterol range is, when they receive their results. They are as follows:

-Total cholesterol 5mmol/l or less
-LDL cholesterol 3mmol/l or less
-HDL cholesterol 1.2mmol/l or more

These levels are considered healthy if you do not have any risk factors for heart disease or strokes. It may be decided that your cholesterol levels need to be lower than this if for example you have diabetes. It is likely that your Doctor will want a fasting blood sample in order to interpret the results properly. This means that you will be asked to not eat or drink anything other than water from after your evening meal, the night before the test. The blood tests are usually performed in the morning. NHS health checks are occurring routinely for people between the ages of 40 and 74. Patients who sit between these ages are being offered health checks, which include blood tests for cholesterol and blood sugars. The blood sugar test is to check for diabetes, which can also go unnoticed in some patients. For more information on the NHS health checks, take a look at this link

How do I lower my cholesterol naturally?

Fortunately the advice for helping to reduce your cholesterol naturally is clear and easy to follow. Most of the advice centres on your diet and there are foods that raise your cholesterol that you can avoid. There are also foods that help lower your cholesterol, which you can attempt to eat more of.

My simple suggestions would be:

Check the foods that you are buying in the supermarket, most packaged food have indicators that show the amount of fat, sugar and salt that is contained in the food. The indicators are normally coloured red for bad, orange for average and green for good. Saturated fats are bad fats and are likely to be turned into bad cholesterol in your body. Try and find alternative foods that have orange or preferably green indicators for saturated fat.

Animal fats tend to be saturated fat and a simple guide to this is that any fat that is solid at room temperature is likely to be less healthy for you. This includes animal products like butter and eggs (the yolks). Red meats are more likely to be higher in bad fats than white. Fish is an excellent source for healthier fats. Oily fish contains a lot of omega 3 fatty acids, which actually help protect your heart.

Changing the way in which you cook your food can also help. Try and avoid frying food and try healthier methods like boiling, baking and grilling.

Vegetables and fruit can assist in reducing your cholesterol and diets rich in fibre also help to reduce the amount of cholesterol absorbed from your diet. The whole grain versions of bread and pasta are most effective for lowering your cholesterol.

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