High cholesterol is often caused by eating fatty food or being overweight. It occurs when you have too much of a fatty substance called cholesterol in your blood. Fortunately, many people can lower their cholesterol by eating healthily, and making lifestyle changes. If you have been advised to make dietary changes, there are a number of things to consider.
Some people may choose certain alternatives to cook their foods, for example by shunning animal fats in favour of olive oil or coconut oil. Coconut oil has many nutrients that can contribute to your health and to a good diet, but it is not actually recommended by the NHS.
NHS Inform says you should avoid foods containing saturated fats, as they will increase the levels of “bad cholesterol”.
Foods that contain coconut or palm oil are actually some of the foods which you should cut down on or avoid.
The NHS notes: “However, it’s not healthy to completely cut out all types of fat from your diet. It’s important to replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats.”
Indeed, the Mayo Clinic states: “The entire body of evidence regarding dietary fats still supports the use of unsaturated oils, such as olive, canola, safflower or sunflower oil, instead of saturated fats or coconut oil for the management of cardiovascular risk factors.”
It adds: “Coconut oil also adds calories to your diet, about 120 calories per tablespoon of coconut oil, which is why it will likely not aid weight loss if it’s not used with a calorie-controlled diet and physical activity.”
NHS Inform adds that a low-fat diet including lots of fibre, such as wholegrain rice, bread and pasta, and plenty of fruit and vegetables has also been shown to help lower cholesterol.
“Fruit and vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals and fibre, and help keep your body in good condition. Aim to eat five 80g portions of fruit and vegetables every day,” it suggests.
The American College of Cardiology Foundation says that “it’s not until there may be a large blockage of the artery that you might notice something is wrong”.
For example, you may have chest pain, pain in the arms or jaw, nausea, sweating, or shortness of breath.
“These usually occur when the blood supply to the heart or brain is being slowed or blocked,” it adds.
The organisation says that the first sign of elevated cholesterol may be a heart attack or stroke.
If you are over 40, you may have a cholesterol test during your NHS Health Check. This is a check-up that can help spot early signs of problems like heart disease and diabetes.
“Your GP might suggest having a test if they think your cholesterol level could be high,” Heart UK adds.
It says that you should aim to do at least 150 minutes of exercise a week, and smoking can raise your cholesterol and make you more likely to have serious problems like heart attacks, strokes and cancer.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) says: “If your cholesterol is very high and if lifestyle changes are not enough, your doctor might suggest controlling it with medication.” Statins are the main type of medicine used to reduce cholesterol.