Why it’s essential to keep an eye on your cholesterol, and some tips to help you lower it


A man talking with his doctor.

The human body is a marvel of intricate systems each working in harmony to keep you on the move.

One crucial cog in this is cholesterol, a fatty substance produced by your liver and found in some animal products, especially meat.

There’s a chance you may have heard healthcare experts or professionals discuss “high cholesterol” as a negative thing, and while this is the case, it’s important to remember that not all cholesterol is inherently bad.

In fact, there are two main types of cholesterol:

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) – Often referred to as “bad” cholesterol, high LDL levels can cause a buildup of fatty deposits in your arteries, narrowing them and making it far more difficult for blood to flow through.
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) – Known as the “good” cholesterol, HDL helps remove LDL cholesterol from your arteries and transports it back to your liver for breakdown.

“Good” cholesterol plays a vital role in building healthy cell membranes and producing hormones, while “bad” cholesterol can lead to various health concerns.

This is worrying, considering that research from Forth shows that almost 40% of people in the UK have high or borderline high levels of bad cholesterol.

Understanding cholesterol and its effects on the body can be incredibly helpful in ensuring you’re taking all the necessary steps to manage it.

So, with that in mind, continue reading to discover precisely what cholesterol is and some ways you can keep it in check.

Having high levels of “bad” cholesterol can result in several health complications

While high cholesterol itself may not cause any immediate negative symptoms, it can present some serious long-term health consequences.

One of these is chest pains, as if the arteries that supply your heart with blood – known as the “coronary arteries” – narrow due to plaque buildup, you might experience a squeezing sensation or pressure in your chest.

In the worst-case scenario, blood clots could form if the deposits on your arteries tear, further blocking the flow of blood and eventually resulting in a heart attack, where your heart muscles are completely deprived of oxygen and nutrients.

Similarly, strokes can also occur due to high cholesterol when a clot blocks the flow of blood to your brain.

There are a number of factors that can affect your “bad” cholesterol levels

Both heart attacks and strokes can be life-threatening, so it’s vital to ensure that you know what causes high cholesterol.

For instance, your diet is one of the more prominent factors that can affect “bad” cholesterol buildup.

Some of the nation’s favourite foods, such as burgers, chips, and other full-fat dairy products are often full of saturated fats, which can raise levels of “bad” cholesterol. Trans fats, which are usually found in ultra-processed foods, are another culprit for high cholesterol.

Inactivity could also encourage high cholesterol, as regular exercise can raise levels of HDL and reduce LDL.

Smoking can lead to high LDL levels, too, and may even cause tar to build up in your arteries, making it easier for cholesterol to stick to your artery walls.

Unfortunately, some factors outside your control can affect cholesterol levels, namely your age, gender, and ethnic background.

Some familial genes or characteristics can also increase cholesterol levels, such as familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH), an inherited condition that can increase LDL buildup in your body.

4 simple steps to reduce your bad cholesterol levels

High levels of “bad” cholesterol can lead to several complications later down the line, but the good news is, you can take steps now to fight back. Here’s how.

1. Stay active

It’s worth thinking of exercise as a regular tune-up for your heart and cholesterol levels, as keeping fit helps raise HDL and lower LDL cholesterol levels in your body.

You may want to aim for around 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week.

Even minute changes, such as taking the stairs instead of the lift, or going for a brisk walk during your lunch break, could make a significant difference.

2. Eat healthier foods

As mentioned, saturated fats, which are primarily found in red meat and full-fat dairy products, affect “bad” cholesterol levels, so it’s worth cutting these from your diet whenever you can.

Similarly, trans fats, which are often listed on food labels as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oils”, raise cholesterol.

Instead, try filling your plate with colourful fruits and vegetables or fibre-rich grains, as these can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream.

Similarly, you may want to seek out foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, herring, and many nuts. These don’t affect LDL cholesterol levels and have many other benefits for your heart.

3. Don’t smoke

Smoking tends to be harmful to your arteries in more ways than one.

Indeed, cigarette smoke can damage artery linings, making them more prone to plaque and cholesterol buildup. Cigarettes can also reduce the levels of your “good” HDL cholesterol, leaving your body with more “bad” LDL to deal with.

While kicking the habit can be incredibly difficult, the health benefits are numerous. In fact, Mayo Clinic reveals that within three months of quitting, your blood circulation and lung function improve; within a year, your risk of heart disease is already half that of a smoker.

4. Drink less

If you enjoy a regular tipple, it may be worth doing so in moderation.

Cutting down on alcohol can help your liver work harder at removing “bad” cholesterol, and can improve your heart health in other ways.

To reduce your intake, you may want to try an alcohol-free drink from time to time or set yourself a weekly drink limit.

As well as having a few days each week where you don’t drink at all, it’s also wise to sip water between drinks to slow down your consumption.

Get in touch

While we can’t help you control your “bad” cholesterol levels, we can assist you with managing your finances.

To find out how we can help, please contact us by email at info@investmentsense.co.uk or call 0115 933 8433.

Please note

This article is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.