Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a type of fat found in our blood. Cholesterol is very important for health but if it gets too high, it can cause problems. Too much cholesterol can be a risk factor for heart disease.


What happens when I have too much cholesterol?

If you have too much cholesterol in your blood, it can start to build up in the lining of your arteries. Over time, your arteries can become narrowed and blocked. Once any cholesterol has lined your arteries, you cannot remove it, but you can stop it from getting worse.This is why it is so important to look after your cholesterol and to work on lowering your levels if they are too high – don’t wait!


Did you know there are 3 main types of cholesterol?

Total Cholesterol Less than 5.0 Total Cholesterol is LDL and HDL cholesterol (plus some other types of cholesterol) added together
LDL Cholesterol Less than 3.0 This type of cholesterol is often called ‘bad’ cholesterol as it is the type that can build up in your arteries.
HDL Cholesterol More than 1.0 HDL is called ‘good’ cholesterol as it helps to remove LDL cholesterol from your blood.


How can I look after Cholesterol?

If you have high cholesterol, start by looking at what you eat. You need to eat less saturated fat and foods that are very high in cholesterol. You can also add in foods that will actively help to lower your cholesterol. If you do have high cholesterol it is worth getting some good advice on diet to make sure you are cutting back on the right foods but not missing out on important nutrients.

Some people may need medication: Whilst diet will help most people, some people find it hard to follow healthy eating plans or they may have a very high level of cholesterol that needs to be reduced quickly. Your doctor will be able to discuss the right medication with you.

If you want to try diet alone to reduce cholesterol, you need to give it 3-6 months. Although cholesterol will come down within a few weeks with a healthy diet, you need to be sure that you can keep going with the diet long-term. That is why you need to wait 3-6 months on a cholesterol lowering diet before thinking again about whether or not you need medication. If your cholesterol is not at healthy levels after 6 months of diet, you may need medication. If you have been trying to diet yourself, it may be worth having a consultation with a qualified dietitian to see if there is anything else you can do.


What foods can help to lower cholesterol?


Oats, Barley and Beta-Glucan

Beta-glucan is a type of fibre found in barley and oats. This type of fibre can help to lower cholesterol if you eat it regularly as part of your meals.Try having porridge for breakfast or choosing oat cakes instead of crackers. Try adding barley to soups, stews and casseroles – look for ‘soup mix’ which has barley, red lentils and split peas and makes a great base for Irish stew and vegetable soups.


Plant sterols & stanols

Plant sterols and stanols are a natural substance found in some plants. They help to reduce the amount of cholesterol that your body absorbs, and this can help to lower blood cholesterol levels. You need about 2g per day of plant sterols or stanols to get the best benefit. 2g per day can help to lower cholesterol by 7-10%.