October 2015 is national cholesterol month with charities such as Heart UK working to raise awareness of the dangers of high cholesterol, providing advice for those requiring support and lobbying the Government to ensure that the best care is provided.
As the specialists in travel insurance for those with pre-existing medical conditions we know that high cholesterol is one of the most common and significant health issues in the UK, in fact over half of all adults in England have raised cholesterol*. In light of this worrying statistic, coupled with the recent news regarding the link between processed meat and cancer, now could be the ideal time to review your diet and your lifestyle.
What is Cholesterol?
• Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is found in all cells of the body. It is an important part of the body as it is used to produce hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help digest food.
• High blood cholesterol is a condition in which you have too much cholesterol in your blood. High cholesterol can lead to plaque building up in blood vessels; this can cause serious health problems such as heart disease or stroke.
What causes high cholesterol?
• Diet: Foods that are high in saturated fats will increase the levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol in your blood, foods to avoid include:
o meat pies.
o sausages and fatty cuts of meat.
o ghee (a type of butter often used in Indian cooking).
o hard cheese.
o cakes and biscuits.
o food that contains coconut or palm oil.
• Smoking: A chemical in cigarettes reduce the transportation of fatty deposits to the liver resulting in a build up of bad cholesterol.
• Being overweight.
How can you reduce your cholesterol?
• Diet: Eat less food with saturated fat content and more foods with unsaturated fat content. Unsaturated fats increase levels of ‘good’ cholesterol and reduce plaque build up in blood vessels. Foods containing unsaturated fats include:
o oily fish, such as mackerel, salmon and tuna.
o nuts and seeds.
o sunflower, rapeseed and olive oil.
A low-fat diet including lots of fibre, such as wholegrain rice, bread and pasta, and plenty of fruit and vegetables, has also been shown to help lower cholesterol.
• Exercise: Exercise stimulates the movement of fatty deposits to the liver which reduces the build up of ‘bad’ cholesterol. It will also help you maintain a healthy weight which will help deter high cholesterol levels in your blood.
If you have high cholesterol it’s particularly important to take care of yourself on holiday, you may be interested in our Travelling with high cholesterol travel page. For further information on high cholesterol visit the NHS cholesterol prevention page.
* Statistics from http://heartuk.org.uk/press/press-kit/key-facts-figures.