Eating a healthy diet and doing regular exercise can help lower the level of cholesterol in your blood. If your GP has advised you to change your diet to reduce your blood cholesterol, you may look to eat more fibre, including plenty of fruit and vegetables. It is also important to eat a healthy breakfast, and there are certain foods which are better than others.
Breakfast cereals that contain whole grains and are lower in sugar, fat and salt are top of the pile.
“Wholegrains are a great addition to a heart healthy diet. Eating them regularly, as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle, has been linked with a lower risk of developing certain diseases including heart disease,” says Heart UK.
A whole grain is a grain that contains all parts of the grain, and a wide range of nutrients including fibre, vitamins and minerals.
When grains are milled, or refined, the bran and germ portions are removed, taking away some of these nutrients.
Whole grain carbohydrates, like those found in wholemeal bread, whole grain cereals, brown rice or pasta, can help lower your ‘bad cholesterol’, according to the NHS.
This is important as too much bad cholesterol can cause fatty material to build up in your artery walls. This fatty material can make your arteries get narrower or blocked up.
There are two main types of fat, which are saturated and unsaturated. Eating too many foods high in saturated fat can raise the level of cholesterol in your blood.
Eating foods that contain unsaturated fat instead of saturated fat can actually help reduce cholesterol levels, according to the NHS.
Reducing the total amount of fat in your diet can also help reduce your risk of heart disease.
“If your GP has advised you to change your diet to reduce your blood cholesterol, the most important thing to do is to cut down on saturated fat,” the healthy body states.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has ranked the most popular cereals from best to worst based on their nutritional value.
“Porridge is our top choice for a heart healthy breakfast – when it is made with low-fat milk or water and unsweetened,” the charity says. All porridge oats are whole grains. Granola with dried fruit, nuts or seeds is very poorly ranked. “This sounds healthy but isn’t, as it’s high in fat and sugar,” the charity warns.
High cholesterol does not usually present any visual clues so you have to get a blood test in order to detect it.
Like other precursors to heart disease, it operates under the surface, causing problems without showing many obvious symptoms.
“Your GP might suggest having a test if they think your cholesterol level could be high,” explains the NHS.
“This may be because of your age, weight or another condition you have (like high blood pressure or diabetes).”
Your blood can be checked for levels of good (HDL) cholesterol, bad (non-HDL) cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as getting a total cholesterol result.
“There is no specific target cholesterol level because your doctor is looking at your overall risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases,” according to the British Heart Foundation (BHF).
It is not common to have cholesterol levels that are too low, but it can happen.
The NHS website does have a guide for optimum cholesterol levels, but makes clear that the levels you should aim for might be different.