High cholesterol

By Annette Campbell "I really thought I was healthy!" says 26-year-old Rebecca Sarina. "I was within the healthy weight range, went to the gym a few times a week, and was conscious about eating well - though I did used to sneak the occasional ice cream or chocolate. But overall, I was pleased with my health and felt really well." But Rebecca, from the south-western Sydney suburb of Ingleburn, was in for the shock of her life.
About a year ago, a friend who had high cholesterol in his family prompted Rebecca to have hers checked ... and the result surprised her and her doctor. "My cholesterol was very high - about 7.1. It's supposed to be 5.5 or less,” Rebecca explains. "I've since learned that it's not only overweight, older men who have high cholesterol. "Anyway, my doctor warned that unless I could start lowering my cholesterol by changing a few things about my lifestyle, medication would be my only option. And I was determined that wouldn't happen." Rebecca's G.P. gave her an eight-week 'deadline' to reduce her cholesterol naturally. Rebecca responded to the challenge by cutting-down almost completely on any saturated fats; grilling more often; using olive instead of vegetable oil, and switching from butter on sandwiches to a spread that helps lower cholesterol. She also started to exercise about six days a week, for at least 30 minutes each time. "It wasn't always easy," she says. "But when you know your health's at stake, you just do it." When Rebecca had her cholesterol checked again, it was down to a much healthier 5.5. "All my hard work had paid off!" she smiles. "And I also lost a few kilos as a bonus!" Her doctor now suggests she have her cholesterol checked at least every two years, and Rebecca is determined to maintain her "new and improved" low-chol lifestyle. "Staying active and eating more healthily has made such a difference," she says. "It was explained to me that the cholesterol was actually clogging my arteries, so I would have been a candidate for a heart attack in the future. "I'm so glad I nipped it in the bud when I did!" Have a healthy heart According to the National Heart Foundation of Australia, one of the best things you can do to lower your cholesterol is reduce your intake of foods that are high in saturated fats (eg, butter, animal fat, palm and coconut oil). To even further lower your risk of heart disease, quit smoking and enjoy regular physical activity. For these and many more heart health tips - or your free copy of Healthy Eating for the Heart; A guide to lowering your blood cholesterol - contact the Heart Foundation on 1300 36 27 87 or visit www.heartfoundation.com.au

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