We hear of fat and cholesterol every day. These are the key words in the ads we see around ranging from those of breakfast cereals to cooking oils. Every day we come across at least a single person who has high blood cholesterol, knowingly or unknowingly.

Is diet the real culprit or obesity? Well, not all people with high cholesterol are obese. I have a friend who is pencil-thin and still has cholesterol. I always wondered why he still consumed mutton owing to his cholesterol levels. His wife told me the other day, “He is hardly 32 and you really can’t ask him to keep away from red meat the whole of his life.” I couldn’t disagree.

When we moved into our new house we were forced to eat out all the time for the first five days before I set up the kitchen. After the first two days we could not eat anymore at Denny’s or Rigatony’s and we went to McDonald’s and even to Burger King for the their $1 burgers. I knew I was gorging in nothing else other than empty calories. Then before it was too late I realized my mistake. Cholesterol did not run in my family nor was I obese. But I had to be more careful for my husband who was stressed at work and could not find time to exercise regularly.

Obesity, high fatty diet, excessive drinking, smoking and family history of cholesterol all put you at risk. Additionally, stress (thanks to recession) aggravates the risks of all lifestyle diseases. High blood cholesterol may make you tired, breathless and uneasy. You may find yourself sweating a lot and may have a heavy chest.

Keys to prevent high blood cholesterol

• Exercise regularly.
• Drink a lot of water.
• Add garlic to diet regularly.
• Use olive oil for cooking and green leafy salads with olive oil.
• Replace butter with sunflower oil.
• Include whole grain cereal, oat meal and soybeans in your diet.
• Eat fruits especially the berries and green vegetables liberally.
• Use red yeast rice as a great replacement for statin drugs. Compounds like monacolins present in red yeast rice can prevent cholesterol synthesis. Yet, people at risk of heart attack, stroke, and those with diabetes or atherosclerosis should not eat red yeast rice.
• Rooibos with its rich mineral content is great for lowering cholesterol levels.

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