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Hungry? Watch what you eat.It’s National Cholesterol Week! Do you know the basics?

As you might have guessed, National Cholesterol Week aims to raise awareness of the dangers of high cholesterol and attempts to encourage the nation to take action against it. So how can you win the fight against cholesterol? Well, all the usual suspects are there: get your five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, eat less fat, exercise regularly. But it’s not quite business as usual. When it comes to cholesterol, it’s necessary to dig a little deeper into the dietary dos and don’ts.

Cholesterol is made by the liver from the saturated fats in food. It plays a crucial role in how cells work and is also needed to make Vitamin D, several important hormones, and bile for digestion. However, too much cholesterol is not good at all and can contribute to the clogging of arteries. In fact, high cholesterol is generally thought to be the biggest risk factor for heart disease and also increases your risk of having a stroke and developing circulatory disease. Best given a wide berth, then.

Thankfully, that’s relatively easy to do if you know how.

In nearly all cases, it’s possible to dramatically reduce the chances of putting yourself at risk from the problems associated with high cholesterol by implementing small lifestyle changes.  There’s a huge amount of really interesting information on the website of HEART UK, the cholesterol charity. It’s well worth spending five minutes taking a look around.

Here’s a quick summary of some their recommendations.

Diet

Cholesterol is formed by the way the body processes saturated fats. They’re most commonly found in foods like pies, pastries, butter, cheese, cream and cakes. Salt is also best approached with caution. HEART UK recommend limiting the intake of saturated fats and, where possible, replacing them with the heart-healthy unsaturated fats found in foods and oils such as nuts, vegetable oil, sunflower oil, olive oil, rapeseed oil and oily fish. High fibre carbohydrates such as wholemeal pasta, wholemeal bread, potatoes, brown rice and wholegrain breakfast cereals also get a big tick. And, of course, getting your five a day is said to be key to helping maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

Lifestyle

Lots of people enjoy a glass of wine at the end of a tough day. That’s fine. But HEART UK suggest sticking to a moderate consumption of alcohol. That means staying within the recommended daily guidelines (2-3 units). If you’re a smoker, then kicking the habit can quickly make a difference in the fight against cholesterol. Also, remember to relax every now and then. Stress and anxiety can have a direct effect on your cardiovascular system. What better excuse do you need to put your feet up once in a while?

Exercise

Regular exercise has numerous body benefits. It will help you maintain a healthy weight, lose body fat and, crucially, reduce levels of LDL cholesterol. (That’s the bad stuff.) To reap the health benefits, HEART UK recommend 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise five days a week. That’s enough to get you puffing a little harder, but not bent over double and gasping.

For lots more information and advice, visit www.heart.org.uk.

Want to know more? HEART UK are holding a conference called ‘Update in Cardiovascular Risk Management’ on Thursday 22nd September at University Hospital in Llandough. If you would like to find out more or reserve a place, visit the website or email suzanne.watkins@wales.nhs.uk.

Are you living with a condition related to high cholesterol such as high blood pressure or heart disease? Remember us next time you’re planning a holiday. We’re medical travel insurance specialists and we offer comprehensive cover for thousands of conditions at a price that’s fair. Visit www.world-first.co.uk for more.

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