Eating a healthy, balanced diet is important if you have a high cholesterol diagnosis, and this may help to prevent high cholesterol in the first place.
Reducing your consumption of saturated fats is important, which is likely to be found in these foods:
• Biscuits, baked goods, cakes
• Processed meats i.e. sausages and bacon
• Full fat dairy i.e. cheese, milk, cream, yoghurt
• Animal fats i.e. butter, ghee, lard, suet, dripping
• Meat i.e. fatty types such as lamb, beef, duck and pork
• Other oils i.e. coconut oil and palm oil
This is because saturated fat can raise blood cholesterol and make the liver less able to remove cholesterol from the body. Read about how to eat less saturated fat.
Some foods are naturally high in cholesterol, such as eggs, offal and certain types of seafood, but it’s unlikely you need to cut down on these as it will make little or no difference to your overall blood cholesterol.
Some foods actually help reduce the amount of blood cholesterol, including:
• Soya i.e. soya milk, edamame beans, soya sausages, Quorn, etc
• Sterol and stanol foods i.e. Benecol yoghurts and spreads
• Oily fish
• Vegetable oils i.e. olive oil, rapeseed oil
• Seeds i.e. sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc
• High fibre foods i.e. wholemeal bread and cereals, pulses, skin-on potatoes
Read more about cholesterol lowering foods.
There are lots of foods that are high in unsaturated fat, which is a better type of fat for the body, such as oily fish, nuts and avocados. Read more about fats in foods.
Some people take vitamins and minerals as supplements for high cholesterol, such as omega 3, plant sterols and garlic. You should always check with your GP or nurse before taking high cholesterol supplements.
It is possible to reduce your blood cholesterol levels through subtle dietary changes. Read this personal story about how lifestyle changes can lower cholesterol.
Read general healthy eating advice from the NHS Change4Life website
Exercise for high cholesterol
Regular physical activity is really important to a person’s overall health and wellbeing, especially if they have high cholesterol. Exercise increases the amount of good HDL cholesterol and decreases the amount of bad LDL cholesterol. Being physically active also helps lower blood pressure and helps reduce the risk of heart problems, stroke and diabetes.
There are lots of ways to get active – you don’t have to join a gym. Adults should try to achieve 150 minutes of exercise per week.
Read more information and advice about increasing your exercise levels.
High cholesterol and employment
High cholesterol is rarely a barrier to employment but you may wish to explain your high cholesterol diagnosis to your employer. You may need to take time off occasionally for medical appointments to have your cholesterol checked or you may have side effects from medication that make your working day difficult. Many people with high cholesterol work as normal and make recommended lifestyle changes to help reduce cholesterol levels.