An aspirin a day – can it really help?
Tabloid headlines often seem to be health-related, and it wasn't long ago that they were telling the world that everyone should take an aspirin every single day.
Posted on Jan 21, 2016 by Aman
Jul 30, 2014 by British Seniors
Lots of UK residents have high cholesterol; however, worryingly, many do not know about it and this ignorance could be putting their lives at risk. So what is high cholesterol, and why does it matter?
Cholesterol is a type of fat, known as a lipid, that is found in the blood. The human body needs cholesterol to function properly, but it is capable of making all that it needs. Unfortunately, the modern western diet contains a lot of cholesterol, which adds to the body's existing levels and causes a build up of cholesterol that can become dangerous.
There are two types of cholesterol, LDL and HDL. LDL cholesterol is known as 'bad' cholesterol, because it can build up on the interior walls of blood vessels, preventing the free flow of blood and thus causing heart disease, heart attacks and strokes.
Heart disease and stroke are the two biggest causes of death in the UK, for both men and women.
HDL cholesterol, in contrast, helps to clear fats from the blood, so a high level of HDL is a good thing.
High cholesterol does not present any symptoms, so the only way of diagnosing it is by a blood test. Cholesterol levels rise with age, so many doctors recommend a cholesterol test at least every five years after early adulthood, but requirements vary according to the individual, so this should be discussed with a GP.
Many factors can contribute to raised cholesterol; these include family history, diet and lifestyle choices.
Once high cholesterol is diagnosed, it is important to tackle the problem immediately, since levels tend to rise over time, increasing the risk of adverse events.
The use of statin medications to treat high cholesterol is now widespread, and statins can lower LDL cholesterol by around 20-50%, making a huge difference to the lives of many. However, for those who wish to reduce their cholesterol without medicines, it may be worth trying some more natural measures first, for a short period (perhaps around six months - a GP should advise) to see whether these lower cholesterol sufficiently without the need for drugs.
Such changes may include:
Reducing saturated fat in the diet - for example by cutting off the visible fat and skin from meat, and reducing meat intake. Similarly, it is a good idea to cut back on fatty treats like cake and confectionery, and to cook with liquid rather than solid fats (although palm and coconut oils should be avoided).
Eating more fibre - fruits, vegetables and whole grains are excellent sources of fibre.
Eating more oily fish - especially if this replaces fatty meat in the diet. Oily fish contain omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, which reduce LDL cholesterol.
Avoiding trans fats - these increase LDL cholesterol and reduce HDL cholesterol, so have no redeeming qualities.
While these and other lifestyle changes will reduce cholesterol levels for many people, it is important to get levels checked regularly by a doctor, and to consider medication where it becomes appropriate. With a little thought and care, there is no reason why high cholesterol should not be a manageable condition.