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Karen asked...

Genetically high cholesterol

I am 63 & have genetically high cholesterol (over 8) so have managed to reduce this (to just over 5) by exercise and careful diet including reducing diary. I have recently had a BD scan revealing I have osteopenia, and been advised to increase dairy intake. Where can I get considered advice on diet and exercise rather than pills that will reflect the contrary needs of these conditions. I have IBS and am also borderline hypo-thyroidal, but my GP considers the latter unimportant

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The answer

First of all really well done on being so proactive about your health and the way you have managed to successfully reduce your cholesterol levels by using nutrition and a healthy way of eating. Obviously your osteopenia is a concern for you however this can also be helped greatly with a combination of diet and exercise. It would seem important that you increase your dairy intake to achieve better calcium and Vitamin D levels these two nutrients will serve to aid bone strength and density where possible. In terms of dairy foods it should possible to incorporate this back into your diet by using the low fat varieties instead of milk cheeses fromage frais and yoghurts for example. These all carry a much lower level of fats and are usually fortified with extra vitamin D and calcium in addition. Just be sure to check the sugar content on the labels of these, some products will contain high sugar levels which ultimately ends up being converted into fat when consumed in excess. Ideally you should aim for a product that has less than 5gm of sugar per 100 gm of product or at the most less than 10 gm. Current national guidelines on sugar intake suggest we should be consuming no more than 24gm of sugar a day which is six teaspoons just to give you an example. In addition to dairy there are other foods that will help to improve your calcium content just as well according to research, top of this list are sardines which are also full of heart healthy omega 3 oils, just a small portion 3 oz will deliver a substantial amount of calcium into your diet, green leafy vegetables are also a good source of calcium in addition with Boh Choy, Kale and collards containing some of the richest levels. Other bone supporting and building sources of food are the soy foods such as tofu, you can also buy soy based yoghurts which are both low fat and low sugar and soy milk while endame peas are another soy rich food in addition. soy is thought to have bone building properties through the actions of Isoflavones which it contains in high levels.

As you are aware in addition to diet research has shown that exercise in particular weight bearing exercise also helps to increase bone density, activities such as walking dancing weight training and yoga have all been shown to encourage the body to lay down more bone so you may like to think about regularily incorporating one of the above activities into your routine.

You might also find this link helpful- it is full of the latest research and information on cholesterol management including nutrition and diet, healthy eating and approved foods for cholesterol management : http://heartuk.org.uk/

Finally, If not already checked it may be worth asking your Gp to test your vitamin D level as this is closely involved with calcium and bone health and density.  I also note that you have a diagnosis of IBS, therefore possibly you may like to speak with your Gp about also being checked for coeliac disease if you haven’t already been and if you think you might have similar symptoms. Coeliac disease has been linked to osteopenia development and whilst unlikely if you were found to have it treatment of this could aid your osteopenia in addition. 



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