What is Cholesterol? 

Cholesterol is a natural type of fat produced in the liver. Cholesterol and other natural blood fats (called lipids) attach to proteins and travel around the blood in tiny spheres known as lipoproteins. The two main lipoproteins are Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). The former is known as ‘bad cholesterol’. Excess levels of LDL increases the risk of heart disease by clogging up the arteries as they travel in the blood.

High levels of ‘bad cholesterol’ block blood vessels and increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Fortunately, simple lifestyle changes can improve cholesterol levels, leading to a happier and healthier you.


What are the main causes of high cholesterol?

A diet high in saturated fats and processed foods,

  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol

Additionally, some individuals have an inherited condition called familial hypercholesterolemia, a condition that causes very high cholesterol levels and is passed on through generations in the genes.


Simple lifestyle changes to improve cholesterol

Eat heart-healthy foods

The food choices you make can actively work towards helping you lower your cholesterol. According to the NHS, saturated fats found in animal products and processed food should be avoided or kept to a minimum. Whereas unsaturated fats are encouraged, such as oily fish, nuts, seeds, avocado and vegetable oils.

Fibre rich foods such as oats and barley, help limit the amount of cholesterol absorbed from the gut into your blood. An intake of at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day is recommended, these are high in fibre which can help in lowering cholesterol levels.

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Regular Exercise

Exercise helps improve physical fitness and reduces harmful LDL. The NHS recommends that each of us should aim for 150 minutes of exercise each week. This exercise can be broken down into smaller more manageable 30 minute sessions. By choosing an activity that you enjoy, you are more likely to continue with a regular exercise routine.

You do not have to join a gym or buy expensive equipment, simple exercises such as walking, cycling, or swimming are just as effective.

Quit Smoking

Smoking lowers your levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), known as ‘good cholesterol’ and makes it easier for your LDL to attach to the artery walls causing them to fur up. Smoking not only impacts on your cholesterol but increases your risks of developing many types of cancers, cardiac disease and other chronic health conditions. The NHS Stop Smoking Service is a great source of help in aiding smoking cessation.

Reduce your alcohol intake

Drinking alcohol causes the cholesterol and triglyceride levels in your blood to rise, when these are elevated, they build up and can prevent the liver from working as well as it should. Cholesterol levels rise due to the liver losing its efficiency to remove cholesterol from your blood.

The Government Guidelines now recommend that adults both male and female should consume no more than 14 units of alcohol per week. Many people underestimate how many units are in their favourite alcoholic beverage. Simple changes include substituting your 175ml glass of white wine for a 25ml gin and slimline tonic. Saving yourself 2.3 units and 159 calories per drink. Unit calculators are a great way to keep track of your alcohol intake.


How can The Doctors Clinic help?

If you’re at all concerned about your cholesterol levels, visit one of our GP clinics for a simple cholesterol test. Our medical experts can discuss your results and advice on the best approach to improve cholesterol levels. 

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