High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips
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High cholesterol is where you have too much cholesterol – a fatty substance – circulating in your blood. High levels of cholesterol raise your risk of heart disease by clogging up your arteries. This process often goes undetected so the only way to tell whether you have high cholesterol is to get a blood test.
There are exceptions to the rule, however.
Occasionally, high cholesterol levels can give rise to xanthoma – a condition in which fatty growths develop underneath the skin.
According to the health body Vascular Health Clinics, these lesions may crop up on the tendons of the toes.
They most commonly grow in the Achilles tendon, however, notes the health body.
How to spot them
According to Winchester Hospital, these fatty lumps range from very small to up to three inches in size.
“Xanthomas can be cosmetically disfiguring,” notes the health body.
In addition to high cholesterol, xanthomas can be caused by the following:
- Primary biliary cirrhosis
- Certain cancers
“You can still have it without these problems,” notes Winchester Hospital.
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How high cholesterol is diagnosed
High cholesterol does not usually cause symptoms – you can only find out if you have it from a blood test.
“Your GP might suggest having a test if they think your cholesterol level could be high,” explains the NHS.
According to the health body, this may be because of your age, weight or another condition you have (like high blood pressure or diabetes).
What happens next
If you have high cholesterol, a doctor or nurse will talk to you about how you can lower it.
There are several ways you can lower high cholesterol, many of which involve changes to your lifestyle.
Healthy eating can make a huge difference to your cholesterol levels and your heart health, whether your cholesterol has crept up over the years or you have a genetic condition.
According to cholesterol charity Heart UK, “too much saturated fat will raise your blood cholesterol, while unsaturated fats are more heart-healthy”.
Saturated fat is the kind of fat found in butter, lard, ghee, fatty meats and cheese.
Many good sources of unsaturated fat fall under a Mediterranean-style diet.
The Mediterranean diet varies by country and region, so it has a range of definitions.
“But in general, it’s 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,” explains the NHS.
“The Mediterranean diet has been linked with good health, including a healthier heart.”
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