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Facts about Fats

Do you know what your cholesterol level is? Do you have high cholesterol or are you at risk of having high cholesterol?

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance/fat found in blood and cells and form an important part of our cell membranes. Cholesterol is also needed to make certain hormones (oestrogen, testosterone, progesterone, aldosterone and cortisone), vitamin D and digestive acids. The liver makes most of the cholesterol in your body, the other source of cholesterol is our diet.

There are different types of cholesterol –

  • low density lipoproteins (LPL) which are sometimes called “bad” cholesterol
    • LDL carries cholesterol in the blood to the cells, if there is too much for the cells to use it builds up in the arteries causing heart disease.
    • Foods high in LDL:
      • Butter, ghee and hard margarine
      • Lard, dripping and goose fat
      • Fatty meat and meat products – especially processed meats like sausage or ham
      • Full cream/fat cheese, milk, cream and yogurt
      • Coconut and palm oils
      • Ice-cream, cakes, biscuits, milk chocolate, crisps and pies
  • High density lipoproteins (HDL) which are sometimes called “good” cholesterol
    • HDL carries cholesterol in the blood to the liver where it is broken down and released from the body.
    • Foods high in HDL:
      • Olive oil
      • Beans and legumes
      • Whole grains
      • High fibre fruit
      • Fatty fish
      • Flax
      • Nuts
      • Chia seeds
      • Avocados

And what does a high cholesterol level mean for me?

High cholesterol increases the risk of the following:

  • Atherosclerosis – narrowing of the arteries
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Transient ischaemic attack (TIA) or min-stroke
  • Peripheral arterial disease (PAD)

What are the causes of high cholesterol?

Causes of High cholesterol:

  • Unhealthy diet, high in saturated fats
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes or high blood pressure (hypertension)

If you have a family history of stroke or heart disease you may be at risk

How do I know if I have high cholesterol?

Symptoms of high cholesterol and heart disease include chest pain, pain while walking (caused by the blocked arteries in your body that reduce the blood flow to your legs), angina, heart attack or stroke.

What can I do to reduce my risks of developing heart disease?

A nurse in your GP surgery can easily test cholesterol levels with a simple finger prick and will refer you to the GP for a more accurate test if your cholesterol is found to be high.


Additional links/references:

The Eatwell Guide

Eight tips for healthy eating

Healthy recipes

NHS weight loss plan

Change4life food scanner

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