Two out of three people in the UK suffers from high cholesterol, which can cause fatty deposits to build up inside the blood vessels, so increase risk of heart disease or stroke. The solution lies in lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet that's low in saturated fats, quitting smoking and taking regular exercise. But there are other ways you can make a difference.
Remember, without cholesterol, your body wouldn't function properly. It's when you have too much low-density lipoprotein (LDL) - or bad cholesterol' - in your blood that problems start to occur. Current NHS guidelines state that total cholesterol should be less than 5.0mmol/l, while LDL cholesterol should be less than 3.0mmol/l.
High cholesterol can affect anyone. Even if you're generally fit and healthy, you may still be at risk - so it's a good idea to get checked out by your GP or pharmacist.
Read on to find out 10 more ways to keep cholesterol under control...
By Jane Murphy
How do they work? Snacking on a handful of raw almonds each day as part of a healthy, balanced diet can help lower LDL cholesterol levels, according to research published in the Journal of Nutrition. It's thought the effect comes from the rich antioxidant content found in the skin. (And yes, almonds are high in fat - but they're health-promoting monounsaturated fats.)
Buy them: Buy raw almonds from supermarkets and health food stores nationwide. Try Nature's Harvest Whole Almonds, £2.19 from Holland & Barrett (www.hollandandbarrett.com).
How does it work? The key ingredient in this nutraceutical drink is barley beta glucan, a soluble fibre that's been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol levels by an average of 10-14%. For best results, take a sachet of Help: Cholesterol twice-daily for six weeks.
Buy it: £16.79 from Asda, Waitrose and Holland & Barrett or at www.workswithwater.co.uk.
How does it work? Benecol is a range of foods and drinks that's been specially designed to lower cholesterol levels. The magic ingredient? Plant stanol ester, which works by partially blocking the entry of cholesterol into the bloodstream. Research suggests it can lower LDL cholesterol by 7-10% in just two to three weeks when used daily as part of a healthy diet.
Buy it: Benecol products - including Yoghurt Drinks, Dairy-free Drinks, Spreads and Cream Cheese - are available in supermarkets nationwide. Find out more at www.benecol.co.uk.
How do they work? Omega 3 fatty acids - found in foods such as oily fish, walnuts and olive oil - are essential for heart health. They prevent blood from clotting in the arteries, so can help lower cholesterol. Taking a daily supplements will ensure you get the right amount in your diet.
Buy them: £4.99 from Holland & Barrett (www.hollandandbarrett.com).
How does it work? One 250ml glass of this oat drink provides a third of the recommended daily amount of beta-glucans - a type of soluble fibre, which has been shown to help reduce raised cholesterol levels. It works by encouraging the body to excrete cholesterol before it can be absorbed into the bloodstream.
Buy it: Around £1.39 from supermarkets and health food stores nationwide.
How do they work? Phytosterols interfere with absorption of cholesterol by the liver - and may also be minimally absorbed by the small intestine, which makes them a good replacement for animal fats in the diet. They're often added to margarine spreads and salad dressings, but a daily supplement can help you get your recommended intake in a quick easy dose.
Buy them: £10.69 from health stores nationwide or www.powerhealth.co.uk.
You might also like...Instant ways to check your health
How does it work? 'Including 25g soya protein each day as part of a diet low in saturates can significantly lower both total and LDL cholesterol,' says dietician Juliette Kellow from www.weightlossresources.co.uk. Soya contains saponins, which enhance immune function and bind to cholesterol to limit its absorption in the intestines.
Buy it: Soya proteins include soya beans, tofu, soya mince and soya milk, all of which are widely available from supermarkets and health food stores.
How does it work? Kingsmill's unique recipe contains wholegrain oats, which can help reduce cholesterol as part of a healthy diet that's low in saturated fats. Oats encourage the metabolism of LDL cholesterol, so speed up its excretion from the body. As a general rule, always buy wholegrain bread as it contains health-boosting ingredients such as fibre, antioxidants and vitamins.
Buy it: £1.39 from supermarkets nationwide; find out more at www.kingsmillbread.com.
How does it work? Knowing your blood cholesterol level can help you assess your risk of developing heart disease - and provide the encouragement you need to make healthy lifestyle changes and stick to them. This simple home test kit measures the level of total cholesterol in a sample of blood taken from your fingertip.
Buy it: £12.25 from Boots stores nationwide (www.boots.com).
How do they work? Lecithin is naturally high in the B-vitamins choline and inositol, which provide benefits to every cell in the body. It can help maintain a healthy heart by speeding up cholesterol metabolism, and stopping fatty deposits from sticking to cell walls.
Buy them: £5.55 from Holland & Barrett (www.hollandandbarrett.com).
You might also like...