Illustration of cholesterol in your blood

Cholesterol plays an important role in our cells and hormones. Why then is there such a negative perception of Cholesterol? High blood cholesterol is seen as dangerous to our health because excess amounts of fat are deposited on the inside of arteries which in turn can cause the arteries to become blocked and lead to a heart attack or a stroke.

Who should have their cholesterol tested?

Adults should have their cholesterol tested once every five years, at least. Your pharmacist or doctor can advise you of the correct procedure to follow. Strive for a 5mmol/l when you have your cholesterol tested.

How can cholesterol levels be lowered?

Dietary intervention before drug intervention is ideal.

What are the risk factors for high cholesterol?

  • Genetics
  • Age – cholesterol tends to rise steadily with age.
  • Gender – men are at a higher risk than women.
  • Diet – a diet high in saturated fat is dangerous.
  • Weight – overweight people are more at risk.
  • Exercise – the more active you are the lower your cholesterol levels.
  • Smoking can contribute to increased cholesterol levels.
  • Stress has been associated with increased levels.
  • Alcohol – excess intake may contribute to increased levels.

General guidelines to help lower cholesterol:

  • Eat a healthy balanced diet.
  • Maintain your ideal body weight.
  • Eat regularly.
  • Decrease fat intake.
  • Substitute saturated and trans fats with polyunsaturated and mono-unsaturated fats.
  • Increase fish and chicken and reduce red meat intake.
  • Limit dietary cholesterol intake such as egg yolk.
  • Increase your fibre intake. This will include eating five portions of fruit and veg a day, six or more servings of whole-wheat unrefined products daily. Legumes such as soya, dry beans, peas and lentils are a high source of fibre, low source of fat and a good source of protein.
  • If you do use alcohol do so in moderation. Limit your intake to 2 drinks for women and 3 drinks for men per day.