High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol are common among older people, and can lead to a range of serious health conditions.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance that carries out many crucial roles within the body. The two types of cholesterol are:
LDL: Referred to as ‘bad’ cholesterol, this compound clings to blood vessel walls and causes a build-up that increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
HDL: Known as ‘good’ cholesterol, HDL helps to remove LDL from blood vessel walls and a sufficient supply reduces your overall risk of cardiovascular disease.
This article discusses why over 65s often have an unbalanced ratio of cholesterol types and what you can do to lower levels of potentially harmful LDL cholesterol.
Why are high cholesterol levels common among older people?
LDL cholesterol levels can be raisedif you eat too much saturated fat, or if you have an inherited condition called ‘familial hyperlipidaemia’.
As LDL cholesterol circulates in your blood stream over a protracted period, deposits can build up on the walls of blood vessels and eventually begin to clog the system.
High LDL cholesterol is also associated with other factors prevalent among older people, including:
A sedentary lifestyle
A history of smoking
A healthy cholesterol level is generally below 200 mg/dL, while anything over 240 mg/dL would be considered disproportionately elevated.
In tandem with other factors – such as high blood pressure and diabetes – this level of LDL cholesterol highlights an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
What can be done to manage and mitigate this risk?
Despite the additional risks associated with age, you can take tangible steps towards reducing your levels of LDL cholesterol by modifying your diet and exercise routines.
However, if a healthcare professional identifies a pronounced risk, they may recommend cholesterol lowering medication.
Lead an active life
Try to stay as active as possible. A comprehensive fitness regime tailored to your needs and abilities – featuring both cardio and strength-based activities – can have a drastic effect on your LDL levels.
Even low impact exercises like walking, gardening or bowls are likely to have a noticeable effect.
Cardiovascular exercise will also reduce your risk of a heart attack and osteoporosis, as well as helping to alleviate depression – which is linked to low levels of HDL cholesterol.
Eat a healthy, balanced diet
Reducing your intake of processed foods rich in saturated fats will make a meaningful difference to your cholesterol levels. These are some of the foodstuffs to watch out for:
Full-fat dairy products (butter, cheese, milk, cream etc.)
Fatty and/or processed meats (sausages, bacon, mince etc.)
Animal/vegetable fats (lard, dripping, goose fat, hard margarine etc.)
You can replace these foodstuffs with healthier alternatives, based on compounds such as olive oil, rapeseed oil or sunflower oil. Also, think about increasing your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables (especially leafy green veg), oily fish and high-fibre foods (such as beans, pulses, nuts and oats).
By following these simple steps, you can reduce your risk of high cholesterol and the conditions associated with it.
If you have any doubts about your cholesterol, make sure to consult with a medical professional for further guidance.
At The Good Care Group, our live-in carers take the time to create and facilitate a bespoke dietary programme that meets all of our client’s nutritional needs by subtly adapting a range of their favourite dishes. If you’d like to talk to us about how our service could help optimise your nutritional intake, just contact our friendly team.