With over half the population of England with high cholesterol, HEART UK- The Cholesterol Charity - has partnered up with Flora ProActiv on a campaign to get cholesterol checked for National Heart Month. High cholesterol is a major risk to heart disease as it contributes to the narrowing of vital arteries which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. There are no obvious signs or symptoms with high cholesterol and HEART UK and Flora ProActiv have teamed up to prompt people to check their cholesterol levels.
For most people, there are simple and effective ways to lower cholesterol which includes changes to diet and lifestyle. Eating healthier, including super cholesterol busting food like plant sterols and getting more active helps lower cholesterol and most people will see an effect in as little as 3 weeks.
What if you could see inside your arteries?
To bring the effects of cholesterol to life HEART UK and Flora ProActiv took to the London Underground. Cholesterol characters disrupted commuters on their journey to work showing how a build-up in cholesterol can block the arteries. By re-creating what is unseen in the body as cholesterol blocks the arteries, commuters had their journeys disrupted on the escalators.
The video (at the top of this page) and partnership between Flora ProActiv and HEART UK brings a serious message for people to check their cholesterol and take steps towards a healthier heart.
The three essentials for a healthier heart
It’s easy to forget the simple things in life that are so essential to keeping a healthier heart.
There are three easy steps we can all take towards a healthier heart.
- Checking your cholesterol levels is an important first step.
- But even when we have had a test most of us don’t know what our cholesterol should be and how it might affect our health so understanding it is the second step.
- Taking action is the third and final step and for the majority this can be as simple as improving our diet and lifestyle.
Follow the simple steps below and within 3 – 4 weeks you should see a reduction in your cholesterol levels.
A screening test for cholesterol levels can be taken using a small drop of blood from the finger. It is both painless and quick, with results usually available there and then. It is important to get cholesterol levels checked by a properly trained professional rather than trying it yourself. It’s very easy to get levels wrong and we wouldn’t recommend any home testing tests, which can often give wrong and misleading results.
There are two main ways to get your cholesterol levels checked:
- The first quick way is to visit a high street pharmacist. Many high street pharmacists will offer a cholesterol check at a modest cost and it can be done there and then, usually without an appointment.
- The second way is at an NHS Health Check. The majority of adults over 40 will be invited every 5 years for an NHS Health Check by their GP. Depending on where you live, you could even get an NHS Health Check done in a mobile unit, in a supermarket or even at a tennis or football club. To check where else you can get an NHS Health Check visit the NHS Health Check website here.
Understanding your cholesterol results
Once you’ve got your results the next step is understanding what they mean. To do this you need to ask for all your cholesterol numbers. You’ll be given the overall amount of cholesterol (your total cholesterol) in the blood and usually a measure of your good and/or bad cholesterol. Dependent upon where you have the test done, you may be given one or more of the following: your HDL (good) cholesterol, your LDL (bad) cholesterol level, your non-HDL cholesterol or your TC:HDL ratio.
If you are otherwise healthy you should be looking for:
- a total cholesterol level (TC), of less than 5mmol/L.
- an LDL-cholesterol (LDL-C) of 3 mmol/L or less.
- an HDL-cholesterol of more than 1mmol/L in men and over 1.2mmol/L in women
- a non-HDL-cholesterol of 4mmol/l or less
- a total cholesterol to HDL ratio of less than 5
The test may show your triglyceride levels too. Triglyceride (TG) levels show are how your body clears fat from the blood after a meal. Ideally it should be less than 2mmol/L after a test is taken when you’ve been told not to eat, known as a fasting sample. A non-fasting result should be below 4mmol/L.
You can get yet more detail about test result from HEART UK here.
Lowering cholesterol levels
Lowering your cholesterol is the last and most important step. You can do this by being more active and eating a healthier diet, which is low in saturated fat. There are also some extra cholesterol busting foods that can help.
Cutting down on saturated fat (in butter, lard, ghee, full fat dairy foods, coconut and palm oils and fatty meats) and replacing it with everyday foods that contain more unsaturated fat (such as healthy spreads, oily fish, nuts, seeds and cooking and salad oils) has been shown to improve cholesterol levels. We all find it difficult to cut down on treats and snacks, but things like milk chocolate, toffee, cakes, puddings, pastries, pies and rich biscuits all contain saturated fat and will increase cholesterol levels too.
Fruits and vegetables, pulses, wholegrain cereals, nuts and seeds are heart healthy so aim to eat more of them. Other plant-based foods such as oats and soya foods are great cholesterol busters and special foods that have been fortified with plant sterols have been proven to lower cholesterol levels too.
The Flora ProActiv range has been approved by HEART UK, and includes healthy spreads and yoghurt type drinks. They contain plant sterols which are clinically proven to lower cholesterol by 7 to 10% in just two to three weeks.* Flora ProActiv can help you make those small changes that can make a big difference to your cholesterol. They are offering a Cholesterol Lowering Starter Kit where you will find all the facts, support and extra motivation you need to help successfully lower elevated cholesterol. Also it takes 21 days to create a habit, so why not try the Flora ProActiv 21 Day Challenge to start lowering your cholesterol!
*Flora ProActiv contains plant sterols. Plant sterols have been shown to lower blood cholesterol. High cholesterol is a major risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease. A daily consumption of 1.5–2.4g of plant sterols can lower cholesterol by 7–10% in 2–3 weeks as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle with sufficient fruits and vegetables.