High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips
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Cholesterol is a waxy substance produced primarily inside the liver but it is also generated through diet. It performs many important functions in the body, such as building the structure of cell membranes. High cholesterol means you have too much LDL cholesterol in your blood. LDL cholesterol clings to the walls of your blood vessels, thereby hiking your risk of heart disease.
Unfortunately, this harmful mechanism does not usually present symptoms, making it highly pernicious.
However, consistently high levels can give rise to xanthelasma, commonly known as cholesterol spots.
According to Cosmedics UK, “xanthelasma are lumpy, yellowish bumps which usually appear on or around the eyelids”.
The health body continues: “These raised areas are actually caused by a localised buildup of cholesterol deposits.”
As it explains, they are not considered medically harmful in themselves, but can be an indicator of high cholesterol, as around half the cases of xanthelasma relate to high blood cholesterol.
“Anyone can get xanthelasma, but it is more common in females and patients who are middle aged or older.”
Other risk factors include:
- Are overweight
- Having high levels of fat—such as cholesterol—in your blood
- Having high blood pressure or diabetes.
How is xanthelasma diagnosed?
American Academy of Ophthalmology explains: “A doctor can tell if you have xanthelasma by looking at the skin around your eyes.
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“They may order a test to check the levels of lipids in your blood. This can show if there is a potential health issue causing your xanthelasma.”
In most cases, however, high cholesterol will not present symptoms, so you can only find out if you have it from a blood test.
“Your GP might suggest having a test if they think your cholesterol level could be high,” explains the NHS.
According to the health body, this may be because of your age, weight or another condition you have (like high blood pressure or diabetes).
How to lower your cholesterol
Changing your diet is central to lowering high cholesterol and even simple swaps can make a big difference.
To reduce your cholesterol, cut down on saturated fat and replace some of it with unsaturated fats, advises cholesterol charity Heart UK.
Sources of unsaturated fat include:
- Vegetable oils such as olive, sunflower, corn, rapeseed, nut and seed oils
- Avocado, nuts and seeds
- Fat spreads made from vegetable oils, such as sunflower and olive oil
- Oily fish.
“Oily fish are a good source of healthy unsaturated fats, specifically a type called omega-3 fats,” says Heart UK.
According to Heart UK, you should aim to eat two portions of fish per week, at least one of which should be oily.
“A portion is 140g, but you could have two or three smaller portions throughout the week. Tinned, frozen or fresh all count e.g. salmon, sardines, pilchards, trout, herring and mackerel.”
It says to avoid coconut and palm oil as, unlike other vegetable oils, they are high in saturated fat.
You should also cut down on:
- Meat pies, sausages and fatty meat
- Butter, lard and ghee
- Cream and hard cheese, like cheddar
- Cakes and biscuits.
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