High cholesterol is when you have too much of a fatty substance called cholesterol in your blood. Cholesterol can build up in your arteries, which, over time, can cause a blockage. Depending on where this happens, it may trigger a stroke or a heart attack. Unfortunately, the only way of accurately identifying high cholesterol is to have a blood test.
However, consistently high cholesterol levels can occasionally spill over to the surface.
This often takes the form of Xanthelasma, a “sharply demarcated yellowish collection of cholesterol underneath the skin, usually on or around the eyelids,” N. Bendsoe and K. Svanberg wrote in their book ‘Lasers for Medical Applications‘.
They continued: “Although not harmful or painful, these minor growths may be disfiguring.”
However, high cholesterol does not usually cause symptoms. You can only reliably 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).
Ask your GP surgery for a cholesterol test if:
- You have not had a test before and you’re over 40, overweight, or have high cholesterol or heart problems run in your family
- You’re more likely to have high cholesterol.
What happened next
Following a formal diagnosis, you will be advised to overhaul your lifestyle in a bid to bring high cholesterol levels under control.
How to live longer: Five-minute daily exercise [ADVICE]
High cholesterol symptoms: Pain in two areas [INSIGHT]
Vitamin B12 deficiency: Three ‘red flags’ – expert [TIPS]
There are several foods which are not just part of a healthy diet, they can actively help to lower your cholesterol too.
According to UK cholesterol charity Heart UK, cutting down on saturated fat and replacing some of it with unsaturated fats is a great way to lower your cholesterol.
Saturated fat is the kind of fat found in butter, lard, ghee, fatty meats and cheese.
Foods high in unsaturated fat include:
- Vegetable oils such as olive, sunflower, corn, rapeseed, nut and seed oils
- Avocado, nuts and seeds
- Fat spreads made from vegetable oils, such as sunflower and olive oil
- Oily fish.
“Oily fish are a good source of healthy unsaturated fats, specifically a type called omega-3 fats,” notes Heart UK.
“Aim to eat two portions of fish per week, at least one of which should be oily.”
Oily fish and other key unsaturated fats can be found in a Mediterranean-style diet.
A Mediterranean diet incorporates the traditional healthy living habits of people from countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including France, Greece, Italy and Spain.
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.
An active lifestyle can also help lower your cholesterol level.
“Activities can range from walking and cycling to more vigorous exercise, such as running and energetic dancing,” explains the NHS.
“Doing 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week can improve your cholesterol levels.