Ok, we know after the year we have had you may have been indulging in a little too much food and drink over the festive period!
That's understandable but having too much cholesterol can clog up our arteries and put us at greater risk of health issues, including cardiovascular diseases like heart disease and stroke.
With this in mind, we look at 5 ways to keep it in check.
1. Try to maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight can affect our cardiovascular health because alongside contributing to high blood pressure and increased blood glucose and insulin levels, it can also lead to high cholesterol.
If you do think that you need to lose some weight, then it’s important to remember that small steps can go a long way. Having smaller portions, increasing your activity, and avoiding sugary and fatty snacks can make a huge difference.
Remember, be kind and patient with yourself and don’t expect too much from yourself too quickly – you should be proud that you’re taking action in the first place.
2. Eat a healthy and balanced diet
Reduce the amount of saturated fat you’re eating because a diet high in these can increase the amount of LDL (bad cholesterol) in the bloodstream – and replace them with healthier unsaturated fats instead.
Foods high in saturated fat include animal fats like butter, fatty meat, and full-fat dairy products like cream and cheese. Unsaturated ‘healthy’ fats, however, are found mainly in foods like vegetable oils, fish, avocados, nuts, and seeds.
Also try using healthier cooking methods. As a general rule of thumb, fried foods tend to be higher in calories and trans fats because they’re often coated in oil, batter, or flour. Therefore, grilling, steaming, boiling, or poaching your food – or opting for these options if you’re eating out – can be helpful if you’re looking to reduce the amount of unhealthy fat in your diet.
3. Make exercise a normal part of your routine
Not only can regular exercise help you maintain a healthy weight, grow your muscles, and reduce your risk of developing various medical conditions, it’s also beneficial to your heart health – including your cholesterol levels.
Unlike medications used to treat high cholesterol, aerobic exercise is a much easier (and even, enjoyable) way to control cholesterol levels, and doesn’t bring a list of possible side effects with it.
It is also widely recognised that physical exercise is one of the most important things to do to significantly reduce stress.
4. Say no to smoking
Research shows that people who smoke tend to have lower HDL (good cholesterol) levels than non-smokers. According to Heart UK, just three weeks after quitting, HDL cholesterol levels can rapidly increase and reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke almost straight away.
Quitting smoking also has various other health benefits, including increased energy levels, improved breathing ability and circulation – making walking and running a lot easier – and a lowered risk of lung cancer.
5. Take steps to reduce your stress levels
When experienced too often, stress can have a huge impact on our bodies and lead to things including headaches, heartburn, insomnia, depression, and high blood pressure.
Different things work for different people to avoid stress – some might find it useful to get outside for some fresh air and spend time amongst nature, and others might prefer to connect with others or re-centre their thoughts using techniques like mindfulness or deep breathing.
Of course, the most important consideration, as with anything medical, is to consult your doctor for health advice and before embarking on any specific treatment.