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5 ways to keep your cholesterol down

5 ways to keep your cholesterol down 

It takes just a few simple changes in your diet, and a bit of exercise, to make sure you have a healthy heart.

Cholesterol travels through the body in our bloodstream. There are two types of cholesterol, sometimes loosely known as “good” and “bad” cholesterol. 

The good cholesterol is high-density lipoprotein (HDL), and its job in the body is to grab cholesterol and send it to the liver for processing. The bad cholesterol is low-density lipoprotein (LPL), which is an accumulation of fatty tissue in your blood that can build up on the walls of your arteries just like plaque on your teeth.

Too much of this artery plaque and you raise your risk of having a heart attack.

According to the Heart Foundation, an average of 20 Australians die of a heart attack every single day, and getting your cholesterol under control is a great way to prevent that.

Here are five easy ways to get back to heart health...

1. Increase your physical activity

Exercise alone accounts for about 15 per cent of your cholesterol reduction, so you cannot drop your LDL count just by hopping on the treadmill. But that’s not to discount the importance of keeping fit when it comes to lowering your bad cholesterol, or making your heart healthy in general.

After checking with your GP, try to do at least 30 minutes a day of exercise five days a week and you should see some improvement.

2. Eat with your heart, not your eyes

Certain foods can aid in your fight against high cholesterol. You’ll need to have a diet lower in saturated fats (those found in red meat and dairy) and trans fats (vegetable oils found in biscuits and deep-fried food). If you eat foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids – foods like mackerel, herring and walnuts – you will also see some positive change.

Soluble fibre helps you to flush out your arteries, so you’ll need to up your intake of things like kidney beans, apples and pears – or simply have oats for breakfast. And dairy is not all bad; if you have a high level of whey proteins, you can help fight off LDLs.

3. Lose some weight

Cholesterol is found in your blood, so you can’t actually see it, but carrying a few extra kilos can contribute to higher cholesterol. Snacks are the real killer, so swap those potato chips for an apple.

4. Drink less alcohol

We don’t think of a beer as being bad for our arteries, but higher levels of alcohol consumption can have a detrimental effect on your cholesterol. That is generally thought of as no more than one drink a day for men and women over the age of 65, but check with your doctor if you think you are drinking too much.

5. Cholesterol-lowering foods

While it’s better to just eat healthily, there are some foods that have been shown to lower cholesterol. You can now buy things like Weet-Bix that are packed with plant sterols that are said to lower cholesterol, and there are a range of spreads as well.

These can have a minor effect on your overall numbers but should not be seen as a substitute for a healthy diet. When in doubt, look for the Heart Foundation “tick” on packaged foods.

Cholesterol is only part of the overall picture of whether or not you’re likely to have heart problems, but keeping your cholesterol on the good side, rather than the bad side, is a positive first step.

“Carrying a few extra kilos can contribute to higher cholesterol. Snacks are the real killer, so swap those potato chips for an apple”

Starting the day with oats for breakfast is a great way to increase your soluble fibre.