For one in every 250 Australians, high cholesterol is inherited from our parents. If that is the case, you may need to talk to your doctor about how to lower cholesterol or exploring medication options.
For many people, being careful about the foods you eat can make a significant difference to your cholesterol levels. If you’ve been told your cholesterol levels are too high, you actually need to lower your low-density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol) or ‘bad cholesterol’ because cholesterol build-up can lead to blockages in your arteries. This, in turn, can lead to stroke or heart attack… even in relatively young people.
Tips on how to lower cholesterol
- Quit smoking. Easier said than done if you are a habitual smoker but this is the best thing you can do a healthy heart and arteries. Smoking increases the ability of LDL cholesterol to get into artery cells and cause damage. For help, visit quitnow.gov.au
- Avoid or reduce foods that are high in saturated fats. These include fatty meats; processed meats like salami and sausages; snack foods like chips; most takeaway foods, especially deep-fried foods and cakes, biscuits and pastries. Limit cheese and ice cream to twice a week.
- Instead eat plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and wholegrains. Choose low or reduced-fat milk, yoghurt; lean meat (meat without fat or labelled “heart smart”); fresh or canned fish at least twice a week; polyunsaturated margarine (instead of butter), nuts, legumes and seeds.
- Reduce your alcohol intake to no more than one or two drinks a day. Avoid binge drinking.
- Exercise regularly (eg. at least 30 minutes of brisk walking daily). Exercise reduces LDL levels in the body.
- Lose weight if you need to. Being overweight may contribute to raised LDL levels.
Before changing your diet, always obtain your healthcare provider’s advice.