Cholesterol is a fatty substance in your blood, and your body needs it in small amounts. Too much of it, though, can start to clog up your arteries, slow down blood flow or block it all together.
So it’s probably worth knowing the things you can do to keep your cholesterol levels healthy – and the very simple ways you can put them into practice right now.
Here’s the 5 key things you can do to lower cholesterol, and 25 ways to ACTUALLY go about doing them in real life, right now.
1. Eat healthily
Yup. None of these are going to come as any surprise to you. But changing your diet really can have a big impact on your cholesterol levels, without having a big impact on your lifestyle.
Essentially, you’re looking to swap ‘bad’ saturated fats for ‘good’ unsaturated fats. Here’s some ideas of small changes to help you get started:
- Swap butter for vegetable, sunflower or olive oil – and use a spray instead of pouring when you’re cooking
- Change your dairy habits, switching whole milk for skimmed milk, and choosing natural yoghurt instead of cream
- Go for low fat mince, skinless chicken and leaner cuts of meat
- Swap out your meat altogether, for instance using Quorn mince for your lasagne – you probably won’t even notice the difference!
- Try making a home-cooked dish instead of ordering a takeaway, so you can control how much saturated fat you’re getting (and save money, too)
- Go for fish like tuna or salmon instead of processed ham in your lunchtime sandwich – and pick wholemeal bread over white
- Try buying added fibre cereals
- Pick high fibre options like lentils, beans, and chickpeas to pad out stews, curries, and your other favourite recipes
- Snack on whole, unsalted nuts, seeds or even breadsticks instead of grabbing a packet of crisps
- Eat less cheese, for instance grating instead of slicing chunks, and going for lower-cholesterol goats cheese instead of your ordinary cheddar.
2. Move more
Another boring but true health tip! The more you move and get your blood pumping round your body, the more you’ll help your body remove bad cholesterol from your system.
Becoming more active doesn’t mean you have to buy a whole new lycra wardrobe, join a gym, and devote hours of your life to exercise. Here’s some ideas of things you can do TODAY that can begin making a difference:
- Use the stairs more – even if it’s just to use the upstairs toilet every time you need to go, or taking the steps instead of the lift or elevator if you’re out and about
- Go for a brisk walk. Ten minutes round the block (going a bit quicker than a casual stroll) is enough to get your heart rate up
- Stop what you’re doing and do two minutes of jumping jacks (or burpees, or even running on the spot) two to three times a day
- Try standing up for a meeting, or for 30 minutes twice a day. You don’t need a new fancy desk – you can use a box or a pile of books instead
- Swap your Eastenders fix for a Joe Wickes workout – or do them at the same time! Get Joe Wickes up on your phone and jump up and down in front of the telly instead of sitting on the sofa
- Walk and talk – every time you take or make a phone call, make it a rule to stroll around the room at the same time.
3. Drink less
Cutting down on your alcohol intake also makes a big difference to your cholesterol levels, and is a good thing to do for a whole load of other health reasons, too. Plus it needn’t be all or nothing. Here’s how you can cut down:
- Try setting a few days a week where you don’t have a drink at all
- Find yourself an alternative ‘treat’ drink – from tonic water to mocktails
- Set yourself a drinking limit when you are drinking, and don’t go for that extra one for the road
- Intersperse your alcoholic drinks with a strategic coke/shandy/soft option in-between
- Order smaller glasses of wine, or half pints (you can always pour them into your big glass)
- Put a beermat over your wine glass so it can’t be topped up without you and you can actually keep track of how much you’ve had.
4. Stop smoking
This is obviously one of the very hardest things to do, and lots of people need extra help to quit the habit. But cutting down or switching to other options can make a difference - and it’s well worth giving it a try:
- Try talking to your GP about nicotine replacement options, and other support – or give the NHS Stop Smoking Service a call on 0300 123 1044
- Swap your cigarette for your two minutes of star jumps – and see if you still feel like one afterwards
- Make it a rule only to smoke when you’re outside, which can be particularly effective in the dark, cold, wet winter months.
5. Check your cholesterol levels
The trouble is, you can’t tell if someone has high cholesterol just by looking at them – and you’re probably not going to be able to feel it if you’ve got high cholesterol yourself. So if you know you’ve not been doing the right things to look after your arteries, you can always get a blood test done to see how they’re doing through your Equipsme plan.
Equipsme members with Level 1 and Level 2 cover or on Solo or Solo Plus plans can get an annual cholesterol finger-prick test to do at home, through our health check partners Thriva.
Thriva will have emailed you to order a test when your plan started. If you missed it, just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll sort it out for you.
Thriva will send you your pack through the post, with full instructions to help you do your finger-prick test from the comfort of your own home. You then pack it up, send it back through the post - and wait about a week for your results to come back.
It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s convenient. And if you DO have high cholesterol, you can take the results to your GP to get support - and possibly medicine to help you keep it under control.