As many as 75% of older British adults have high cholesterol levels. Lowering the level of LDL (bad) cholesterol in your blood is important as too much can cause fatty deposits to form in the arteries, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke. If you have high cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins and suggest lifestyle changes – such as quitting smoking, exercising regularly, and eating healthily.
Cutting the amount of saturated fat (found in things like cheese, cream and meat) you eat and upping your intake of cholesterol-lowering foods can make a difference.
An easy first step to lowering your cholesterol levels is to swap your morning crumpets or fry-up for porridge. Oats are a good source of beta-glucan soluble fibre, which binds excess cholesterol, preventing it from being absorbed by the body. Have a big bowl of porridge each morning, and studies suggest it may reduce your LDL cholesterol levels by around 7%.
Keep things interesting by adding a banana or some blueberries and it will provide a bit of sweetness (so you don't need sugar) and further increase your fibre intake.
2. Pearl barley
Pearl barley is another healthy wholegrain that contains beta-glucan soluble fibre. Try adding some to soups or stews for a low-fat healthy meal that will help to keep your heart healthy.
If you're not a fan of pearl barley, increase your intake of fibre by eating beans (such as baked beans, butter beans or chickpeas) and other legumes, like lentils and peas. Eating more fibre helps to mop up excess cholesterol in the body, lowering your LDL levels.
Strawberries can significantly lower levels of bad cholesterol and harmful blood fat, according to research – but you need to eat a lot of them. A study published in the Journal Of Nutritional Biochemistry, found that strawberries reduced low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the harmful form of cholesterol, by nearly 14% - but participants had to consume 500 grams (17.6oz) of the fruits (two average-sized punnets) - every day for a month.
If you haven't tried tofu, edamame beans or soy milk, now is the time to give them a go. Studies show that eating around 20 grams of soy protein a day (that's the equivalent of two and half cups of soy milk) can lower LDL by as much as 6%.
6. Oily fish
Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel and sardines, contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which help to lower triglycerides in the bloodstream. By eating fish two or three times a week instead of meat, you'll further reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet.
If you don't like oily fish, increase your intake of omega-3s by cooking with rapeseed oil or consider taking a daily supplement.
Nuts are good sources of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, soluble fibre and plant sterols, all of which can help to reduce levels of bad cholesterol. Experts recommend eating 2 ounces of walnuts or almonds a day to benefit.
Fruit that contains the soluble-fibre pectin, such as peaches, pears, apples, plums and oranges, are also on the menu. When eaten, pectin helps to normalise blood lipid levels and bind excess cholesterol. Researchers in the Netherlands say that eating a diet rich in pectin-containing foods may reduce levels of bad cholesterol by around 10%.
A recent study from American found that volunteers who ate one and a half avocados a day had significantly reduced total cholesterol levels. Avocados are packed with heart-friendly monounsaturated fats that lower bad cholesterol in the body, as well as natural plant sterols, which also known to help keep cholesterol levels in check.