Her Check-Up: Let's talk about... Cholesterol
Now we all know we have family and friends with the best hearts - but how often do we check in to make sure we're doing everything we can to keep our ticker in top shape?
Heart disease, or cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the most common cause of death in Ireland, accounting for a third of all deaths and just over of a fifth of deaths in those aged under 65.
One of the best ways to reduce your risk of CVD is to keep cholesterol level in your blood at a healthy level.
Having raised cholesterol levels will rarely produce any symptoms but will significantly increase your risk of developing CVD. Only a blood test will tell you if your cholesterol levels are raised.
So what is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is found in all cells of the body. Your body needs some cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help you digest foods. Although your body makes all the cholesterol it needs, cholesterol can also be found in some of the foods you eat.
How do you get high cholesterol?
High cholesterol is usually as a result of factors such as diet, weight and exercise.
People can also suffer from high cholesterol as a secondary to:
- Liver or kidney disease
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Pregnancy and other conditions that increase levels of female hormones
- Underactive thyroid gland
- Prescription drugs that affect cholesterol levels in the blood
There are no obvious symptoms for high cholesterol, but if you are concerned that you are at risk of having high cholesterol as a result of a poor diet, being overweight, or from genetics - it is advisable to book in an appointment with your doctor. Cholesterol tests are also available in a number of pharmacies, who will take a drop of blood from your finger tip for an instant reading.
Doctors advise for anybody over the age of 25 to have their cholesterol tested every five years.
How can you lower high cholesterol?
- Eat a 'heart-healthy diet' - Avoiding animal fat foods such as:
- Cholesterol (from animal foods, such as egg yolks, meat and cheese)
- Saturated fat (found in some meats, dairy products, chocolate, baked goods, and deep-fried and processed foods)
- Trans fat (found in some fried and processed foods)
- Take regular exercise
- Avoid smoking
- Keep a healthy weight
For more information on how to lower your cholesterol, healthy recipes for a balanced diet, or for tips on keeping your heart healthy, visit the Irish Heart Foundation, or book in an appointment with your doctor to look at best practices to keep you ticking over.