High cholesterol: The ‘psychological’ factor which may put you at higher risk

High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips

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If you are over 40, you may have a test during your NHS Health Check. This is a check-up that can help spot early signs of problems like heart disease and diabetes. The Mayo Clinic explains: “A lipid profile also typically measures triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood. Having a high triglyceride level also can increase your risk of heart disease.”

A study published in The National Library of Medicine notes some of their risk factors are modifiable such as mental and physical stress.

The objective of this study was to determine the effects of psychological and physical stress on the lipid profiles.

It was a historical cohort study, which was performed on people who were employed as general workers during 2005 to 2016.

It states: “According to our findings, psychological stress was a risk factor for increasing triglycerides, and LDL and for decreasing HDL.”

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) says stress alone won’t cause heart and circulatory diseases, “but it’s linked to unhealthy habits that may increase your risk”.

It explains: “You may be more likely to turn to unhealthy habits such as smoking, eating comfort food that’s typically high in fat or sugar, drinking too much alcohol or not being physically active.”

The Mayo Clinic explains the same heart-healthy lifestyle changes that can lower your cholesterol can help prevent you from having high cholesterol in the first place. To help prevent high cholesterol, you can:

  • Eat a low-salt diet that emphasises fruits, vegetables and whole grains
  • Limit the amount of animal fats and use good fats in moderation
  • Lose extra pounds and maintain a healthy weight
  • Quit smoking
  • Exercise on most days of the week for at least 30 minutes
  • Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all
  • Manage stress

If you have been advised to make dietary changes, there are a number of things to consider and several general rules to follow.

You should try to avoid drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week, and avoid binge drinking. You can ask your GP for help if you are struggling to cut down.

There are two main types of fat, which are saturated and unsaturated. Eating too many foods high in saturated fat can raise the level of cholesterol in your blood. The NHS says most people in the UK eat too much saturated fat.

However, Heart UK says: “Anyone can have high cholesterol – even if you are young, slim, eat well and exercise.”

“That’s because high cholesterol can be caused by different things. It can be caused by an unhealthy lifestyle, but it can be genetic too.”

The Mayo Clinic explains high cholesterol can cause a dangerous accumulation of cholesterol and other deposits on the walls of your arteries.

It says: “These deposits (plaques) can reduce blood flow through your arteries, which can cause complications.” These may include chest pain, heart attack, and stroke.

The NHS says: “This is because cholesterol can build up in the artery wall, restricting the blood flow to your heart, brain and the rest of your body. It also increases the risk of a blood clot developing somewhere in your body.”

The health body says your GP may recommend that you have your blood cholesterol levels tested if you:

  • Have been diagnosed with coronary heart disease, stroke or mini stroke (TIA), or peripheral arterial disease (PAD)
  • Have a family history of early cardiovascular disease
  • Have a close family member who has a cholesterol-related condition
  • Are overweight
  • Have high blood pressure, diabetes or a health condition that can increase cholesterol levels

The BHF recommends all adults have a cholesterol check at any age, even if they feel completely well. It should be repeated every five years – or more often if the test was abnormal.

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