10 surprising ways to cut cholesterol

Jane Murphy / 14 June 2017

High cholesterol affects half of UK adults, increasing risk of heart disease and stroke. Here are 10 surprising ways to help lower your cholesterol.

Get – or stay – married

OK, this one's easier said than done – but if you happen to be married, you may be pleased to hear that your relationship could provide a buffer against heart problems. That's according to researchers from Aston Medical School, who found that older married people with high cholesterol were 16 per cent more likely to be alive at the end of the 14-year study period than their single counterparts.

Marriage advice and tips for the over-50s

Make lunch your main meal of the day

Eating late at night can raise cholesterol, as well as glucose and insulin, a new study from the University of Pennsylvania has found. This rise increases risk of weight gain and type 2 diabetes, as well as heart disease and stroke – so do try to curb those late dinners.

Healthy lunch ideas

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Get up and move around

Need to motivate yourself to get off the sofa? After five hours of sitting, levels of 'bad' cholesterol (LDL) rise significantly with each extra hour, according to a recent University of Warwick study. Meanwhile, levels of 'good' cholesterol (HDL) – the kind that helps break down the bad stuff – decrease.

Why just 2 minutes of activity an hour can help

Fill up on fibre

High-fibre foods are great for keeping cholesterol levels in check. 'Make sure your diet is rich in beans, oats, flaxseed and oat bran,' says nutritionist Shona Wilkinson from Superfood UK. ‘This may help lower total blood cholesterol by lowering “bad” cholesterol levels.

‘Studies have also shown that high-fibre foods may have other heart-health benefits, such as reducing blood pressure and inflammation.'

Fibre: how much do we really need?

Don't skip breakfast

People who eat breakfast and stick to regular meal patterns throughout the day are less likely to suffer from high cholesterol, according to a study review published in the journal Circulation.

Not usually a breakfast person? Perhaps one of these options might tempt you

Bring back barley

Barley consumption has fallen by 35 per cent in the past decade. And that's a real shame because it can significantly reduce levels of two types of 'bad' cholesterol, says a recent review published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Try adding it to salads and soups, or using it in place of rice.

Superfood carbs: ancient grains to try

10 superfoods that may help lower cholesterol

Go Mediterranean

A Mediterranean diet – rich in fresh fruit and veg, oily fish and, most importantly, extra virgin olive oil – can enhance the heart-boosting benefits of 'good' cholesterol and so reduce levels of 'bad' cholesterol, according to recent research published in Circulation.

So how much extra virgin olive oil should we be consuming? Aim for 4 tbsp daily, say the researchers. Use it to dress salads or drizzle over dips.

10 healthy Mediterranean foods

The health benefits of edible oils

Move to a mountain

Admittedly, this one's not a realistic option for most. Still, it's worth noting that people who live at a higher altitude – between 457 and 2,297 metres – are at lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome than those living at sea level, according to a recent Spanish study.

Metabolic syndrome is the medical term given to the combined risk factors of high cholesterol, blood pressure and sugar levels, as well as excess body fat. So why the effect? It may be because the body has to work harder to get the oxygen it needs at high altitudes, say the researchers.

What is metabolic syndrome? Find out with our guide

Get out of the city

You might not be planning to move to a mountainside any time soon – but if you live in an urban area, it's still a good idea to get out to the countryside and breathe cleaner air whenever you can.

New research from the University of Washington has found that air pollution causes heart attacks and strokes by damaging 'good' cholesterol.

10 healthy reasons to get outside

Know your numbers

Not sure if you suffer from high cholesterol? You may be surprised to learn you're not alone. Only one in 10 UK adults knows their levels, according to new research by Betavivo. You can find out if yours is too high by having a simple blood test at your GP surgery.

If you're aged between 40 and 74, you're entitled to a free NHS Health Check – which includes cholesterol-testing – every five years. Some pharmacies and supermarkets offer cholesterol checks, too.

Cholesterol: what you need to know

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The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.