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Control your cholesterol

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On this page

Control your cholesterol and help yourself to avoid heart and circulation problems

Two thirds of us in the UK have high cholesterol, which is a fatty substance found in the blood. It’s usually made in the body and plays an essential role in how every cell in the body works.

But too much cholesterol in the blood can start to affect how well your heart and circulation works. It can cause the blood vessels to become blocked increasing your risk of a heart attack or stroke. This is why it’s so important to keep control of your cholesterol levels.

The main types of cholesterol

  • LDL (low-density lipoprotein) – often known as ‘bad’ cholesterol. Too much can fur up your arteries, making them narrower - a major risk factor of heart disease.
  • HDL (high-density lipoprotein) – often known as ‘good’ cholesterol. It’s a protective type of cholesterol which helps to keep your arteries clean by taking excess levels of cholesterol back to your liver where it’s re-processed and passed out of your body.
  • Triglycerides – fats carried in our blood which come from the food we eat. High levels are associated with an increased risk of heart attack and strokes.
  • Total cholesterol - an overall measure of both the LDL and HDL types of cholesterol found in your blood.
  • TC:HDL –the ratio of total cholesterol to high-density lipoprotein. A high value means there’s too much of the other types of cholesterol compared to the ‘good’ cholesterol.

The most common cause of high cholesterol is a diet high in saturated fat. But a family history of high cholesterol might make you more susceptible too.

What your cholesterol level reading means

 Total cholesterol Classification Advice/action
Less than 5mmol/L Desirable Re-test in 3 months
5 to 8 mmol/L Slightly raised Contact your local pharmacist for further advice, including whether you’d benefit from a cholesterol and heart check
More than 8mmol/L High Contact your doctor or healthcare professional


How to lower cholesterol with a healthy diet

Try to cut down on saturated fat

It’s important to know that the cholesterol we get from food (found in prawns, eggs, liver and kidneys) has very little influence on cholesterol levels in the blood. In fact, it’s eating too much saturated fat that has a much bigger impact. Saturated fat which is found in fatty meats and meat products such as sausages and pies, high fat dairy foods like cheese, cream, butter, cakes, biscuits and pastries.

You should also watch out for trans fats (in hydrogenated vegetable oils) which are usually found in biscuits, cakes, fast food and pastries. Choose poly and monounsaturated oils for cooking such as olive, rapeseed and sunflower, and snack on nuts seeds and avocados instead of biscuits and chocolate.

Increase fruit and veg portions

At least five a day (400g) of a mixture of different coloured fruits and vegetables. A high intake of fruit and veg has been associated with a lower incidence of heart disease, elevated cholesterol levels, blood pressure and obesity. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories, rich in soluble fibre, antioxidants and potassium which actively lower blood pressure – another risk factor for heart disease.

Eat oily fish at least once a week

Oil-rich fish, such as salmon, trout, fresh tuna, sardines, herring and mackerel, are the best dietary source of omega-3 essential fatty acids. They lower blood pressure, reduce clotting tendency and lower triglycerides. Aim for at least one 140g portion a week.

Go nuts

Nuts are high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, soluble fibre and plant sterols. They’re a good source of nutrients such as magnesium, vitamin E and potassium, which helps to blunt the effects of salt on blood pressure. Including just a small handful (around 30g) of nuts in your daily diet can help to reduce both total and LDL cholesterol.

Reduce alcohol 

Alcohol may raise HDL ‘good cholesterol’ levels in those who drink moderately but remember that alcohol is full of empty calories. Alcohol is also a common contributor to weight gain, one of the biggest risk factors for high total and LDL cholesterol. It is best to stick within the Department of Health guidelines of no more than two to three units of alcohol a day for women and three to four for men with at least two alcohol-free days a week.

If you’re worried take control and monitor your cholesterol

Our cholesterol check up measures your blood pressure and cholesterol level, and estimates your risk of developing cardiovascular disease over the next ten years. It’s a great way to get peace of mind and know you’re doing the right thing, as well as getting all the advice you need on how to lower your risk. Available at selected stores. Charges apply.

Find you local LloydsPharmacy

If you have any concerns at all, please speak to your LloydsPharmacy pharmacist. If your GP is maintaining or treating you for high cholesterol you may have different targets.

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