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We know that having a high cholesterol is associated with heart attacks, strokes and death (cardiovascular disease) and that lowering cholesterol with medications called statins is an effective way to lower your risk of disease.

Everyone over the age of 40, or those with a family history of heart attack or stroke should visit their doctor for a health screening that includes an assessment of their risk of cardiovascular disease.

One piece of that assessment is a measurement of blood cholesterol (lipid) levels.  Higher levels of “bad” cholesterol – LDL – and lower levels of “good” cholesterol -HDL are associated with increased risk of disease.

Your doctor will make an assessment of cholesterol and other factors to determine if you would benefit from treatment with lipid lowering medications, but there are also simple things you can do yourself to lower your cholesterol through your diet.


Avoid Trans Fats

These are really bad news. They raise your LDL cholesterol, lower  HDL cholesterol and increase your risk of developing heart attacks, strokes and diabetes. Watch out for “partially hydrogenated oils” on food labels.  They are often used in fast food establishments for frying as the oil can be used several times over. Singapore already limits their supply to food and beverage outlets, and they will be banned as an ingredient in al foods from June 2021.  Common foods that contain them are doughnuts, cookies, crackers, muffins, pastries and pies.


Reduce Dietary Saturated Fats

Saturated fats have a significant impact on your LDL levels.  Most of them come from animal meet or dairy ie fatty beef, lamb, pork, butter, cheese, cream.  There are also high levels in coconut oil and palm oil.  Choose leaner cuts of meat and extra virgin olive oil instead.


Increase Dietary Fibre

Soluble fibre is a type of plant fibre that cannot be digested.  It can bind cholesterol in the gut and reduce the amount you absorb into your blood stream.  Aim for 5-10 grams per day. Examples of foods high in fibre are oatmeal, oat-bran, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, apples.


Phytosterols/Plant Sterols

These are naturally occurring plant compounds.  They are very similar looking to human cholesterol and because of that they block the absorption of cholesterol in the gut.  They can lower LDL by up to 10-20%.  We should aim to eat 2 grams per day.  They are present in grains, fruit and vegetables, but to get up to 2g per day you need to eat foods that are fortified with them usually in the form of margarine spread.


Red Yeast Rice

Is the product of yeast (Monascus purpureus) grown on white rice.  It contains many substances that lower cholesterol, the most important of which is called monacolin K that is the same chemical as the cholesterol lowering drug lovastatin.  It is an unregulated supplement, the potency varies between manufacturers and there is the potential for side effects and drug interactions. It should only be used after discussion with your doctor.

Most importantly before you embark on significant dietary changes, you should consult your doctor to get a full health check. There is a lot more to health than just cholesterol.

Contact The Harley Street Heart & Cancer Centre today to find out more on what screening tests are suitable for you based on your age, gender and family health history.

About the Contributor : Dr Michael MacDonald moved to Singapore with his family in 2015. They instantly fell in love with the country and are now permanent residents. In his free time, Dr MacDonald enjoys an active life, cycling and working out several times a week.

He also enjoys fishing with his son and has recently taken up golf. “I love to keep moving; exercise and healthy living are my passion. This is a huge part of my motivation in working as a cardiologist. I want people to attain their best level of fitness and health, so they can enjoy their lives!”

Contact Dr. Michael for a consultation today!


16 January 2020
Really great article! Thanks for sharing this information.