Low density lipoprotein (LDL) and high density lipoprotein (HDL) are 2 different types of cholesterol that can be found in our blood which are responsible for transporting fat molecules around the body. LDL is known as the ‘bad cholesterol’. Excess LDL in the body can lead to plaque build up in the inner wall of the arteries which constricts the arteries which over time can lead to elevated blood pressure and several chronic diseases such as heart disease and stroke. Alternatively, to prevent this from happening, we want to aim to keep our LDL below 3.0mmol/L. Additionally, HDL is known as the ‘good cholesterol’ and we want to aim to keep our HDL levels above 1mmol/L to maintain good health. But how do reduce we reduce LDL and increase HDL in our blood you ask? Find out below:
Physical activity is a fantastic way to not only reduce our bad cholesterol, but it also increases our good cholesterol, so it’s a win win! The physical activity guidelines are the optimal way to achieve good health which is 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity (or 75 minutes vigorous intensity) physical activity in bout of at least 10 minutes, including resistance training of all the major muscle groups at least twice a week. So a combination of cardio and resistance training is key.
Another way to improve cholesterol is through a healthy diet. The optimal diet is high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil. It usually includes a low intake of meat and dairy foods. As many of you are aware, we need protein in order to recover the body after a workout so rather than overconsuming on meat products (as some meats can be high in saturated fat), alternatively consider eggs, beans and other meat-free protein products. The NHS recommend a Mediterranean as demonstrated below:
- eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day – find out more about getting your 5 A Day
- base your meals on starchy foods such as potatoes, bread, rice and pasta – choose wholegrain versions where possible
- eat some beans or pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish every week, 1 of which should be oily)
- have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks) – choose lower-fat and lower-sugar options
- choose unsaturated oils and spreads, and eat them in small amounts
- drink 6 to 8 glasses of fluid a day
- if consuming foods and drinks that are high in fat, salt or sugar, have them less often and in small amounts
Research has shown that having a BMI above the healthy ranges can contribute to cholesterol outside of the ideal ranges. Therefore, trying to lose any excess weight can do wonders for your health!
Even having a healthy alcohol intake can also help improve your cholesterol. The Public Health England recommend no more than 14 units per week whilst avoiding binge drinking (consuming more than 8 units in one day) and having at least 3 days a week without any alcohol intake.
Smoking is considered one of the leading causes of illness. In addition to improving cholesterol, stopping smoking has a substantial amount of health benefits! There is also lots of free support provided by the NHS in their global intervention to help reduce the prevalence of smoking. So if you want to stop smoking, contact your local GP today to find out what support is available to you!
In a nutshell, following a healthy lifestyle can help reduce your bad cholesterol and also improve your good cholesterol so that you can live a longer and healthier life!