High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips
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High cholesterol typically doesn’t have presenting symptoms. However, consistently high levels can give rise to complications that do. If a cholesterol build-up starts to cause your arteries to narrow, you may notice a few changes in your leg.
This process is formally known as peripheral artery disease (PAD).
“One of the first symptoms of peripheral arterial disease that you may experience is an ache or cramp in your leg muscles when you’re walking,” explains vascular charity the Circular Foundation (CF).
According to the CF, these sensations most commonly occur in the calf muscle, but can also occur in the thigh or buttock muscles.
PAD is a “common problem”, the charity notes, but will only cause symptoms or problems in a quarter of those people.
In fact, many people mistakenly think this is just part of growing older, but there’s no reason why an otherwise healthy person should experience leg pain, notes the NHS.
Prevention better than the cure
To stave off the risk of PAD and other complications, it’s vital to look after your cardiovascular health.
Keeping high cholesterol levels at bay are essential to this effort and there are simple and effective ways of doing this.
You can lower your cholesterol by eating healthily and getting more exercise.
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There are several foods which are not just part of a healthy diet, they can actively help to lower your cholesterol too.
The winning formula is to cut down on saturated fat and replace some of it with unsaturated fat, according to cholesterol charity Heart UK.
Saturated fat is the kind of fat found in butter, lard, ghee, fatty meats and cheese.
Foods which contain unsaturated fats 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.
According to the NHS, you should also aim to do at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of exercise a week.
Some good things to try when starting out include:
- Walking – try to walk fast enough so your heart starts beating faster
“Try a few different exercises to find something you like doing. You’re more likely to keep doing it if you enjoy it,” advises the NHS.
Curbing smoking is also critical.
The NHS explains: “Smoking can raise your cholesterol and make you more likely to have serious problems like heart attacks, strokes and cancer.”
How to get tested for high cholesterol
High cholesterol does not cause symptoms. 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.
This may be because of your age, weight or another condition you have (like high blood pressure or diabetes).
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