It’s National Cholesterol Month so we’ve been looking at ways to keep cholesterol levels in check and lower our chance of heart disease or a stoke.

Cholesterol is a fatty substance and is vital for the normal functioning of your body. It's mainly made by the liver but can also be found in some foods. Having an excessively high level in your blood can have some serious health implications.

High cholesterol doesn't usually cause any symptoms but it increases your risk of serious health conditions such as narrowing of the arteries, heart attack and stroke.  It can also increase the risk of a blood clot developing somewhere in your body.

Eat less saturated fat

Eating too many foods high in saturated fat can raise the level of cholesterol in your blood. Foods high in saturated fat include:

  • meat pies
  • sausages and fatty cuts of meat
  • butter, ghee and lard
  • cream
  • hard cheeses
  • cakes and biscuits
  • foods containing coconut or palm oil

Eating foods that contain unsaturated fat instead of saturated fat can help reduce cholesterol levels. Try to replace foods containing saturated fats with small amounts of foods high in unsaturated fats for example:

  • oily fish – such as mackerel and salmon
  • nuts – such as almonds and cashews
  • seeds – such as sunflower and pumpkin seeds
  • avocados
  • vegetable oils and spreads – such as rapeseed or vegetable oil, sunflower, olive, corn and walnut oils

Healthy food

Eat more fibre

Eating plenty of fibre helps lower your risk of heart disease and some high-fibre foods can help lower your cholesterol. Good sources of fibre include:

  • wholemeal bread, bran and wholegrain cereals
  • fruit and vegetables
  • potatoes with their skins on 
  • oats and barley
  • pulses such as beans, peas and lentils
  • nuts and seeds

Get active

Doing 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week can improve your cholesterol levels. This can range from walking to more vigorous exercise such as cycling, running or dancing. Moderate aerobic activity means you're working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat.