Having elevated levels of cholesterol – the fatty substance found in your blood – can lead to coronary heart disease and other diseases of the heart and blood vessels. A quarter of all UK deaths caused by cardiovascular disease are attributed to high levels of cholesterol. But, high cholesterol typically will not carry any outwardly visible symptoms. The only way to know you have it is to get a cholesterol test from a GP or pharmacy.
New research released for World Heart Day has revealed a staggering 37 percent of Britons are unaware there are no visible symptoms of high cholesterol.
The study, commissioned by cholesterol experts Benecol, highlights a serious lack of understanding among the UK population around cholesterol, with one in five adults (20 percent) believing regular exercise will prevent it.
The new Benecol study found Londoners and York residents are the least clued up on cholesterol – with over half of people in these cities unaware it has no obvious symptoms.
One of the key causes of high cholesterol is eating a diet that is high in saturated fat – with full fat dairy, and fatty meat and processed meat some of the key offenders.
Registered Dietitian Helen Bond said: “This new study reveals a serious lack of understanding around cholesterol, highlighting that there are a lot of myths that need dispelling around the subject – primarily that people mistakenly believe that it commonly carries physical symptoms, when in actual fact high cholesterol is not typically a visible ‘thing’.
“It’s also concerning to see that under 30s are particularly unaware of the associated risks of cholesterol as, contrary to popular belief, it isn’t something that only affects you in later life.
“A large number of young adults also have high cholesterol – around one in six aged between 16 and 24 years – so it’s crucial that people start to think about ways to manage their cholesterol earlier in order to avoid putting their long term health at risk.”
According to the World Health Organisation, globally high cholesterol is one of the top ten causes of death around the world and is estimated to result in around 2.6 million deaths each year.
Yet, it would seem that our 21st century eating and lifestyle habits are having a negative impact on our cholesterol levels, heart and circulatory health.
The rise in popularity of ‘ultra’ processed foods and takeaways – full of sugar, saturated fat, salt and nutrient-poor refined grains – means that many more people than ever before are thought to be living with unhealthy cholesterol levels.
When asked what people can do help stay in control of their cholesterol, Bond advised: “Changing your eating habits is one of the most effective ways of improving your cholesterol levels, and people need to be aware that with just a few simple switches to your everyday eating and lifestyle habits, you can move cholesterol levels in the right direction.
“To help achieve and maintain a healthy cholesterol level, try replacing the saturated fats in your diet – such as butter, full fat milk and fatty meats – with healthier, unsaturated fats – such as vegetable oils, olive oil, skimmed milk or oily fish. You can also boost your intake of fibre by making sure that you eat your five-A-Day, choose wholegrains and oat products where possible and try snacking on nuts and seeds.
“And don’t forget, if you’re aged 40-74 years and living in England, you’re entitled to a free NHS Health Check every five years.”