There are two main types of cholesterol and both do not catalyse this harmful process.
The one to worry about is LDL cholesterol – this is the type that sticks to the inside of your artery walls.
HDL cholesterol, on other hand, counters the harmful effects of LDL cholesterol by picking it up and transporting it to your liver where it is flushed out.
To reduce your risk of heart disease, it is therefore important to increase HDL levels while decreasing LDL levels.
The benefits to cholesterol are attributed to omega-3 – substances found in the fish which your body needs for many functions, from muscle activity to cell growth.
“There’s strong evidence that omega-3 fatty acids can significantly reduce blood triglyceride levels,” reports Mayo Clinic.
It adds: “There also appears to be a slight improvement in high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good”) cholesterol, although an increase in levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol also was observed.”
What’s more, studies suggest fish oil supplements can lower high blood pressure – another marker of heart disease.
General tips to lower heart disease risk
According to the NHS, a low-fat, high-fibre diet is recommended, which should include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (five portions a day) and whole grains.
“You should limit the amount of salt you eat to no more than six grams (0.2oz) a day as too much salt will increase your blood pressure,” says the health body.
Six grams of salt is roughly one teaspoonful.
It is also important to avoid food containing saturated fats, because these will increase the levels of bad cholesterol in your blood.
Foods high in saturated fat include:
- Meat pies
- Sausages and fatty cuts of meat
- Ghee – a type of butter often used in Indian cooking
- Hard cheese
- Cakes and biscuits
- Foods that contain coconut or palm oil.
“However, a balanced diet should still include unsaturated fats, which have been shown to increase levels of good cholesterol and help reduce any blockage in your arteries,” adds the NHS.
Many unsaturated fats can be found in the Mediterranean diet, such as oily fish, avocados, nuts and seeds.
The diet emphases wholegrain cereals, modest amounts of meat and low-fat dairy.