Cholesterol is a waxy substance produced by the liver and contained in some foods. It is carried in the blood by proteins, some of which are referred to as ‘bad’ (LDL = Low Density Lipoprotein) or ‘good’ (HDL = High Density Lipoprotein).
Too much cholesterol in the blood can lead to heart and circulatory diseases.
Understanding your cholesterol results
When you get your cholesterol result from your doctor it is split into a variety of different measurements.
- TC which means Total Cholesterol (a measurement of bad and good cholesterol) should be below 5 millimols per litre of blood (mmol/l).
- LDL (bad cholesterol) which should be less than 3mmols/l
- HDL (good cholesterol). This should read more than 1mmol/l for men and 1.2 mmol/l for women.
- A fasting triglyceride sample should be 2 mmols/l or less
- A non-fasting triglyceride result of 4 mmols/l or less
Your doctor would consider total cholesterol of 5.8mmols/l as higher than average, however would not start any medical treatment until your level was much higher.
Ways to reduce cholesterol through diet
- Replace butter on bread with sunflower or olive oil spreads
- Reduce (or stop) cooking with high level fats such as butter, lard, ghee, and goose fat. Use minimal amount of vegetable oils and spreads when cooking
- Replace fatty meats such as sausages and burgers with lean meats such as chicken (without skin) and all kinds of fish (white and oily)
- Avoid snacks such as cakes, biscuits, chocolate, pastries and replace with nuts (without coatings), dried and fresh fruit, or hummus
- Cut out full fat milk or cream in yoghurt, tea and coffee, soups and sauces. Replace with a lower fat option such as skimmed milk
- Try and cut out cheese altogether. If you must eat cheese, ensure it is low fat or much smaller portion sizes, less often
- Eat soups made with vegetable stock and low salt. Tomato based sauces, however also be aware of the sugar in some tomato based sauces. High sugar content food is not good for someone with raised cholesterol.
- Avoid frying foods. Use alternative cooking methods such as grilling, slow cooking and poaching. If roasting something ensure you use a small amount of oil and that oil is olive, sunflower or rapeseed.
Lifestyle changes to reduce cholesterol
- Increasing your exercise.
- Try using stairs instead of lifts or escalators
- Park away from shops and walk
- Go for a walk during your lunch break
- Team up with a friend and get an allotment
- Regular walks with families, swimming, park ramble or taking dog for a walk with the family
- Stop smoking. Enquire at your local GP surgery about any stop smoking support groups or NHS supported programmes
- Reduce alcohol intake. No more than 14 units per week. Ensure you spread your units over the course of a week and do not save them up and drink them all on one day/evening.
- Weight loss. Particularly if your carry weight around your waist. In European people a waist line of 80cm (32 inches) carries an increased risk and 88cm (35 inches) carries a high risk of increased cholesterol and heart disease.