High cholesterol is caused by having too much of a fatty substance called cholesterol in the blood.
Cholesterol falls into two categories – LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol) and HDL (‘good’ cholesterol).
According to the American Heart Association, “Experts believe that HDL acts as a scavenger, carrying LDL (bad) cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where the LDL is broken down and passed from the body.”
Too much ‘bad’ cholesterol can increase the risk of serious health problems, such as narrowing of the arteries, heart attack and stroke, whereas ‘good’ cholesterol can protect against these risks.
Evidence suggests that the omega-3s found in fish oil may play a role in lowering triglycerides and raising HDL cholesterol
Evidence suggests that the omega-3s found in fish oil may play a role in lowering triglycerides and raising HDL cholesterol.
In a 12-week-long intervention study in 2007, researchers assessed the impact of daily fish oil consumption and exercise on 28 men and 53 women. All subjects were overweight and had high blood pressure, cholesterol, or triglycerides. However, none had any cardiovascular-related diseases such as diabetes.
After the 12-week intervention, researchers observed an increase in HDL cholesterol by 9.70 percent and 11.60 percent in the fish oil alone group and the fish oil and exercise group respectively.
This further adds weight to studies confirming the health benefits of oily fish on reducing bad cholesterol. One four-week study following 19 people found that consuming up to 9.5 ounces (270 grams) of salmon twice per week reduced triglycerides and increased HDL cholesterol levels.
Another study in 92 men with high cholesterol and triglycerides compared the effects of eating salmon to eating other types of protein.
The men who ate salmon every day for eight weeks experienced a significant reduction in triglycerides and a significant increase in HDL cholesterol, compared with those who consumed other protein sources (7Trusted Source).
According to Mayo Clinic, there are number of ways to keep the ‘bad’ cholesterol at bay, these include:
Reducing saturated fats – Saturated fats, found primarily in red meat and full-fat dairy products, raise your total cholesterol. Decreasing your consumption of saturated fats can reduce your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — the “bad” cholesterol.
Eliminate trans fats – Trans fats, sometimes listed on food labels as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil,” are often used in margarines and store-bought cookies, crackers and cakes. Trans fats raise overall cholesterol levels.
Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids – Omega-3 fatty acids don’t affect LDL cholesterol. But they have other heart-healthy benefits, including reducing blood pressure. Foods with omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, mackerel, herring, walnuts and flaxseeds.
Increase soluble fibre – Soluble fibre can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. Soluble fibre is found in such foods as oatmeal, kidney beans, Brussels sprouts, apples and pears.
Add whey protein – Whey protein, which is found in dairy products, may account for many of the health benefits attributed to dairy. Studies have shown that whey protein given as a supplement lowers both LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol as well as blood pressure.
Exercise is another way to improve cholesterol, as Mayo clinic explained: “Moderate physical activity can help raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol.” The health body advises working up to at least 30 minutes of exercise five times a week or vigorous aerobic activity for 20 minutes three times a week.
Smoking is another way to improve your HDL cholesterol level, according to the health body. It also recommends drinking alcohol in moderation.
According to the NHS, statins are usually the recommended course of treatment for people with dangerously high cholesterol or are at a particular risk.
The health body explained: “They’re usually offered to people who have been diagnosed with coronary heart disease or another cardiovascular disease, or whose personal or family medical history suggests they’re likely to develop it during the next 10 years.”
The medications can be prescribed if GP deems you needs them, however, as a general rule, “They’re no substitute for lowering your cholesterol by eating a healthy, balanced diet and being active,” said the NHS.
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