High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips
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High cholesterol is when you have too much of a fatty substance called cholesterol in your blood. Like other precursors to heart disease, it operates under the surface, stealthily causing problems without throwing out symptoms. Its absence of symptoms means you have to get a blood test to confirm you have it.
However, researchers in India have developed a total cholesterol test that uses a digital camera to take a snapshot of the back of the patient’s hand rather than a blood sample.
The image obtained is cropped and compared with images in a database for known cholesterol levels.
Writing in the International Journal of Medical Engineering and Informatics, N.R. Shanker of the Sree Sastha Institute of Engineering and Technology and colleagues described how they have developed a non-invasive way to test cholesterol levels in patients at increased risk of heart disease.
Their approach is based on the creation of a large database of cholesterol levels recorded using standard blood tests and linked to a standardised photograph of the hand for each patient; cholesterol is concentrated in the creases of one’s fingers.
Fatty deposits of cholesterol called xanthomas can appear in the creases of the hand.
According to the Winchester Hospital, xanthomas range from very small to up to three inches in size.
Although getting a blood test is a reliable way of determining cholesterol levels, the Indian researchers have proven that the presence of different total levels of cholesterol can also be revealed through image analysis of the skin.
How to lower high cholesterol
If you’re diagnosed with high cholesterol, you’ll usually be required to make lifestyle changes to lower your levels.
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There are several foods which are not just part of a healthy diet, they can actively help to lower your cholesterol too.
Try to eat some of them every day as part of your healthy diet.
According to 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 fats are usually hard at room temperature, such as butter, the fat in meat, and coconut oil.
Foods containing unsaturated fats 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.
According to Heart UK, oily fish are a good source of healthy unsaturated fats, specifically a type called omega-3 fats.
“Aim to eat two portions of fish per week, at least one of which should be oily,” advises the health body.
“A portion is 140g, but you could have two or three smaller portions throughout the week.”
In addition to improving your diet, you should also engage in regular exercise.
“Moderate physical activity can help raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the ‘good’ cholesterol,” explains the Mayo Clinic.
HDL cholesterol picks up a harmful type of cholesterol called “LDL” cholesterol and transports it to the liver where it is flushed out.
Raising your HDL cholesterol levels reduces your risk of heart disease.
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