Men’s Health Week Revisited – Reduce Blood Pressure and LDL Cholesterol levels in Six Weeks.

men's health


Following on from the post last week on testosterone and cholesterol, here is a six week programme that can reduce both your blood pressure and unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels. It can be followed with some tweaking, by both men and women.

If you are currently on medication for both Blood Pressure or cholesterol do not stop taking but if you follow this programme, I suggest at the end of the six weeks, particularly if you have lost weight that you visit your GP and ask if you might work together to reduce the dosage. You may with further work be able to come off medication completely.

R  Reduce your salt intake. You should not have more than a level teaspoon per day or 6 grams. If you eat a lot of processed foods you will be consuming far in excess of this. Sodium is essential for our bodies to keep a correct water balance: it is also necessary for nerve impulse transmission and prevents your blood from becoming too acidic or alkaline. However, take in too much and not only will it cause weight gain it can also drive your blood pressure too high. Look at the labels on the food and your mineral water currently in your cupboard and fridge and see how much sodium is in 100gms. Multiply by 2.5 which will give you the salt equivalent. So if a Pizza has 8400 mg of sodium you would times that by 2.5 giving you 21000mg of sodium or 21gm of salt which is 3.5 teaspoons or 3 times the recommended salt intake.

E Eat whole grain bread, oats, rice and pasta and avoid all white, starchy foods. This means cakes, sweets and white industrial loaves. Store baked baguettes that have no preservatives are fine occasionally, but you should focus on wholegrains. Not only will you be consuming more fibre which is essential for clearing out arteries of fatty deposits it will also provide you with B vitamins, essential for the metabolism of the carbohydrates and proteins that you eat. It will provide you with slow release energy throughout the day without spikes in your blood sugar.

There is much debate as to whether we should be eating grains. I believe that we should in moderation. There are important B vitamins in wholegrains and unless you have been tested by a qualified therapist or medical practitioner for Celiac disease, there is no reason for you not to eat moderate amounts. Although our activity levels may drop off as we get older, you still need the nutrients contained in oats, rice and good quality wheat. The reason many people react to grains is that the rest of their diet is full of sugar. If you are Celiac then by all means pay extra for gluten free flours but try to make your own bread. Much of the gluten free ready prepared products contain a lot of sugar.

D Drink plenty of fluids. If you are dehydrated your blood pressure will be higher. Avoid too many caffeine high drinks – restrict to one cup of coffee per day – decaffeinated would be best. Tea is still caffeinated but is fine drunk in moderation. To actively lower your blood pressure drink 4 cups of Green Tea per day – use a slice of lemon or ginger to taste or a teaspoon of honey. In addition to Green tea – drink 1 litre of low sodium mineral water per day or tap water. Do not drink diet or fully leaded fizzy drinks. Even the artificial sweeteners react with your body and trick it into thinking you have just had several teaspoons of sugar.

U Up your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables – not only will this provide more fibre to detox your whole system it will also provide you with anti-oxidants that will prevent normal healthy cholesterol becoming harmful. Clogged arteries full of LDL cholesterol will result in high blood pressure. Also up your intake of healthy fats including olive oil, oily fish, avocados and use a scrape of butter rather than industrial spreads. Use lean proteins but eating an egg a day will pack in nutrients and has been shown to encourage a healthy cholesterol balance.

C Calm down. Stress elevates blood pressure and if you lead a busy and hectic work and family life you need to find ways to relax. Learn to breathe correctly. Take in a breath through the nose slowly to the count of ten and let out slowly through the mouth to the count of 15. Repeat several times first thing in the morning – last thing at night and any time you feel you are becoming stressed. Listen to your favourite music – switch off your phone and take a relaxing bath. Take mini-breaks to relax and make sure that you are sleeping at least 7 or 8 hours per night.

E Exercise and lose weight if you need to. Your BP and Cholesterol will drop significantly after the loss of just one stone.   You will have to carry less weight putting your body and your heart under less strain. The closer to your optimum weight the better your blood pressure is likely to be. Exercise will help clear your arteries of debris, fill your system with oxygen rich blood and improve muscle tone. Not just in your legs but in your heart and lungs too. A strong heart can work harder. Walk a mile a day. Measure the distance and then time yourself. Each day work towards walking a 15 minute mile. Then increase the distance until you are walking a mile out and a mile back in 24 minutes. If you enjoy swimming then increase your swim until you are completing a kilometre three times a week in 45 minutes or less.

B Be proactive. Understand how your body works and how you can make positive changes to your lifestyle and diet to reduce this potential silent killer. Work with your doctor so that you do not face a lifetime on pills to control a condition that in 9 out of 10 people can be managed with diet and exercise.

P Pack in smoking. Most people believe that smoking relieves stress. In fact it increases it. The several thousand chemical compounds in each cigarette are toxic to the body. Your arteries will harden and become brittle resulting in narrowing and apart from high BP you are also at a severe risk of strokes and aneurysms.

What foods can you enjoy during this six weeks.


The rule of thumb is if it is completely natural and does not come in a package then you can eat it. Cook from Scratch… If you enjoy milk in your coffee or tea and some on your porridge that is fine but to be honest use a smaller amount of full fat and get the taste. A little extra mature cheddar a couple of times a week is not going to hurt either.


It is very important that you use olive oil for cooking.. Latest research has discovered that it is in fact healthier than sunflower at the higher temperatures. I suggest that you cut the frying out completely and use a griddle pan with a sprinkle of oil, steam or roast in the over without skin. You might also like to use organic coconut oil which is something I have been using the last few months. Another healthy fat that is great for all the body including the brain. If you are trying to lose weight you still need to use in moderation. Also eat lean cuts of meat but do not worry about the occasional marbling of fat in meat as this too has benefits.

When using ground beef get steak mince rather than the cheaper cuts and have less of it. You can buy frozen wild salmon which has not been farmed and is therefore healthier for you. Instead of too much butter sprinkle extra olive oil on your bread or vegetables.. If you like garlic which helps to reduce both BP and cholesterol then crush two cloves and put into the bottle of olive oil and shake it up.. Adds a wonderful flavour to dishes and helps overcome any salt withdrawal symptoms you might have


Here is an example of the delicious meals you could be eating in the six weeks. This comes to approximately 1500 calories per day which is the minimum a woman should be eating daily. If you are a man then you need to add another 300 calories in the form of an extra piece of wholegrain toast at breakfast, and extra spoonful of rice at lunchtime and add a medium jacket potato to your suppers.  If you do not need to lose weight then a woman requires around 1800 to 2000 calories per day and a man 2000 to 2300. These of course are dependent on activity levels.  I don’t tend to focus on calories for this particular exercise as it is more important that you are eating fresh produce and not eating pre-prepared packaged foods.  Just cutting those out for six weeks will make a huge difference.


Start each day with a room temperature glass of water with the juice of one lemon.

Avoid all packaged cereals as they have too much added salt and sugar.

Porridge oats with some chopped fresh fruit, apricots, peaches, banana, stewed apple, papaya, pineapple



A poached or boiled egg with a piece of granary toast with a scrape of butter.


A two egg omelette with red peppers, tomatoes and a dessert spoon of wholegrain rice.

With a tea or coffee.

Mid Morning

Coffee or Green Tea with two rye crackers with mashed banana or a sprinkle of olive oil, a little garlic and sliced tomatoes.


An Apple with two thin slices of very mature cheddar..



Savoury wholegrain rice.. Two large tablespoons with chopped cooked onions, peppers, fresh basil, unsalted cashews, dessert spoon of sultanas and a handful of wilted spinach. Topped with roasted skinless chicken breast or other lean protein. A spoonful of fermented vegetables such as beetroot or cabbage.


Lean protein, potatoes (mashed, baked, boiled with a drizzle of olive oil) Carrots, two green vegetables and a homemade tomato and basil sauce.


A large mixed salad with a roasted piece of salmon and new potatoes


Depending on your activity level -multi-grain ryvitas with tomato, cucumber topping or from occasionally a dash of set honey.  Or Fruit.

Supper as a light meal without carbohydrates.


Large portion of vegetables or salad with fish, chicken or lean meat. If you are a man or have a high activity level you can add a jacket potato etc to the meal.

Snack if you need an extra mid-evening.

Fruit or handful of unsalted nuts and seeds.

Drink your teas and water throughout the day

I suggest that you do not drink alchohol for six weeks. I love a glass of good red wine but from time to time I give my liver a break. Especially as it is the liver that stores your cholesterol.

The purpose of this programme is to reduce your LDL cholesterol which is dangerous when it is oxidised.

Sugars do this very effectively so by not ingesting cakes, sweets, biscuits or alcohol for the six weeks you should find that your LDL levels are reduced and that you have a higher level of HDL which is much healthier.

It is tough to give up your favourite foods but if I could put it into perspective.

A bar of chocolate is 500 calories. If you are in the habit of eating one a day, over a week you will be adding 1lb of body fat into your diet. In six weeks that is 6lbs.


Here is a basic shopping list that provides all the basic nutrients the body needs to be healthy. Feel free to print off and mark up for your next trip to the supermarket.

Thanks for dropping by and if you have any questions then please comment or if you wish you can email me on


Smorgasbord Health – Food in the News – Eggs can be eaten raw by pregnant women!!!

smorgasbord health

This was the article in question in the Daily Telegraph yesterday that implied that it was okay for pregnant women to go back to eating raw eggs.

However, in actual fact the article only refers to British ‘Red Lion’ approved eggs that are on sale as these have been tested and proven to be free of salmonella.

85% of eggs sold in the UK have the Red Lion quality mark but 15% of the eggs sold in the UK do not.

That 15% is likely to be from producers who have less than 50 laying hens and not liable to register their business.

To put this into perspective there are an estimated 33million eggs consumed each day in the UK – that means that 15% or almost 5 million eggs are not registered and carry a Red Lion quality mark.  Here is the link to the regulation if you wish to read them.

What interested me was that those selling eggs who had under 350 laying hens and supplied directly to the consumer or through local outlets did not have to comply with the Salmonella National Control Programme.

Salmonella National Control Programme (NCP) for laying hens. 

The requirements of the NCP apply to all operators producing eggs on a commercial basis, except where:

  • all production is for private domestic use
  • the holding has fewer than 350 hens and supplies direct to the consumer or via local retailers

The other concern that I have, is hat there are millions of eggs used in industrially produced foods that may or may not have come from regulated sources. Whilst they are cooked and not raw it still raises health concerns as far as I am concerned.

Back to the raw eggs. Whilst there is much less risk of salmonella poisoning from eating raw eggs than a decade ago.. I would still not eat raw eggs and I certainly would not recommend them to someone who is pregnant.

Having said that all of that I consider eggs one of the most versatile packages of food that we can include in our diet. 

Here is a breakdown of the main nutritional elements that are so important in a healty diet.

Eggs are an excellent source of choline and selenium, and a good source of high-quality protein, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin B12, phosphorus and riboflavin.

PROTEIN – We are made of protein and very cell in our bodies and every function requires protein to survive, thrive and repair itself. It is involved in hormone manufacture, our soft tissue, bone strength, haemoglobin that combines with iron to carry oxygen around the body and the vitality and strength of our hair and nails.  The body needs food to obtain protein and so including foods such as eggs and other protein rich foods is essential.

N.B It is easy to think that as protein is good for us that we should eat as much as we like. In fact the body can only handle around 10 to 15% of our daily intake as protein on a regular basis as the body goes into overload. Kidney’s in particular are vulnerable. This particular refers to animal based proteins.

CHOLINE: One of the few substances that can penetrate the brain membranes, raising levels of acetylcholine a neurotransmitter that may improve focus and memory. Acetylcholine is also necessary for stimulating the contraction of all muscles including the facial muscles. This may help maintain a youthful appearance. Choline also seems to help with controlling cholesterol, keeping arteries clear.

SELENIUM: A very important trace mineral that activates an antioxidant enzyme called glutathione peroxidase, which may help protect the body from cancer. It is vital for immune system function and may help prevent prostate cancer.

PHOSPHORUS: Essential for bone formation and production of red blood cells. Also needed for the production of ATP fuel for energy. Small amounts are involved in most of the chemical reactions throughout the body

VITAMIN B2: RIBOFLAVIN; Also essential for metabolising carbohydrates to produce ATP, and also fats, amino acids and proteins too. It is necessary to activate Vitamin B6 and Folic Acid. It works with enzymes in the liver to eliminate toxins.

VITAMIN B12: CYANOCOLBALAMIN; Essential for the efficient working of every cell in the body especially those with a rapid turnover rate and it prevents their degeneration. It works with B6 and Folic Acid to control Homocysteine levels in the blood. It is involved in the synthesis of DNA and the proper functioning of the Nervous system by maintaining myelin surrounding the nerves. It is involved in the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for resetting our biological clock’s rhythm when we change to a new time zone and aiding sleep patterns. It is used in the treatment of diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis, Anaemia, Low Blood Pressure, hearing disorders, asthma and allergies, infertility and cancer

VITAMIN D: CHOLECALCIFEROL; Essential for maintaining blood levels of calcium by increasing absorption from food and decreasing loss from urine. This maintains a balance preventing calcium from being removed from the stores in the bones. It also plays a role in maintaining a healthy immune system and blood cell formation. It may protect against prostate cancer. It is needed for adequate levels of insulin and may protect the body from Multiple Sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile diabetes.

VITAMIN E: TOCOPHEROL; As an antioxidant it protects cell membranes and other fat-soluble parts of the body such as LDL cholesterol from oxidative damage and blood vessels. It can be used topically for skin health and is involved in the reproductive system. It may help prevent circulatory problems that lead to heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease by preventing clots from forming. It improves the pulmonary function of the lungs and enhances the white blood cells ability to resist infection.


The most common source of Salmonella is in eggs. There has been a great deal of publicity over the last 15 years as to the level of infection in the eggs that we buy in our supermarkets or at our local corner shop. My philosophy is that all food should be treated with respect and that no living organism is completely germ or parasite free. We as humans are host to a number of parasitic infections and should accept that the food we consume is likely to be so too. Err on the side of caution and do not take risks with any food that you consume.


Provided the egg is thoroughly cooked the bacteria will be killed, but if you use raw eggs or prefer your eggs under cooked you could be putting yourself at risk. The most likely to suffer from the resulting gastric enteritis are the elderly, babies and people who have an impaired immune system.

The symptoms associated with Salmonella poisoning are a fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhoea beginning 12 to 72 hours after eating the infected food. The illness lasts between 4 and 7 days and the biggest danger in the elderly and babies is dehydration and loss of essential nutrients. The other risk is that the infection may spread from the intestines into the bloodstream and of course then has access to the entire body.

It is essential that medical attention is sought if any stomach upset lasts for more than 24 hours in the elderly, babies or young children and 48 hours in a normally healthy adult. It is very important that dehydration is prevented by increasing fluid levels – room temperature water, which is sipped, can often be kept down. You can obtain solutions from a chemist that will help re-establish the electrolyte balance in the system and replace essential nutrients that have been lost.


Salmonella infects the ovaries of healthy hens and contaminates the eggs before the shells are formed. Salmonella also lives in the intestines of other animals in the food chain and if food is not stored correctly or cooked thoroughly then it can be passed to Humans.


Always store and cook foods such as eggs, poultry and meat safely and at the correct temperatures.

If salmonella is present in an egg, if it is refrigerated it will prevent the salmonella from increasing in number.

Do not use cracked eggs.

Always wash your hands and utensils after contact with raw eggs.

Eat eggs as soon as they are cooked do not keep warm for longer than an hour or two at a time.

Always refrigerate leftovers.

Do not eat food at home or in restaurants that contain raw eggs such as ice cream or steak tartar.

Be aware that some dressings when you eat out are made with raw egg such as Hollandaise sauce or Caesar dressing.


The views that I express are my own and I am sure that the Egg Marketing Board in the UK are thrilled to have this article circulating after a decade of concerns over salmonella infection in eggs. However, when it comes to the health of an unborn child.. I would rather err on the side of caution.

Thanks for dropping by and please feel free to share. Sally

The Cholesterol Myth – Fats – The Good the Bad and the Ugly…..

Today, another substance that plays a role in the healthy balance of LDL and HDL cholesterol. It can be tricky because the good fats are fairly easy to spot but the harmful fats tend to be hidden and disguised in the packaged and processed foods we buy. Responsible manufacturers have mainly moved away from using the highly toxic ‘trans fats’ but unfortunately the cheaper your processed family meal for four is, the more likely it is to have few natural ingredients that might be classified as nutritional.

At this point I think it is important to remember that our bodies have been evolving for a very long time – in a hundred thousand years our DNA will only have altered about ten times which means that we are physically very similar to our first ancestors – I have said before that the body does not react to sudden changes very well! However, in the last 300 years and particularly the last 150 years since the industrial revolution we have thrown some curved balls at our bodies. Processed foods with manufactured artificial ingredients is just one area where our nutritional needs are not being met – one of the others, which is the real demon in our diet, is refined sugars – addictive -available from birth to grave, within hand’s reach in shops, in our own fridges and store cupboards.

Add these to the laboratory constructed (ugly) fats to extend the sell by date on ready meals and other processed foods in our daily diet and it is no wonder our bodies are in melt down with increased health issues that lead to Heart disease, cancers and dementia.

But back to fats…………………………..

We must not cut fats out of our diet – they have an essential role to play in our health and without fats and cholesterol our bodies will be open to infections, poor function in areas such as the brain, heart, reproductive system and our eyesight. I use the 80/20 rule because of my past weight issues and 20% of my diet comprises health fats – sometimes I will have more because I am out for a meal etc but basically my everyday diet comprises mainly seasonal vegetables and fruit, wholegrain rice, fish, chicken, red meat once a week, eggs, olive oil, moderate dairy. No one person’s diet is the same and you have to find the perfect balance for you and this includes your fat intake – as long as it is not harmful fats………..

Briefly, a quick look at the fats you are likely to encounter in your daily diet.   One fat to avoid all together is not naturally occurring at all and that is manufactured ‘Trans Fats” Liquid oil is hydrogenated to extend its shelf life but in the process Trans fatty acids are formed – found in most processed foods including margarines -snacks such as microwave popcorn, cakes, biscuits, cookies, pies etc.

The other fat which in large quantities is not helpful in maintaining cholesterol levels is saturated fats – if there is too much in your diet it will raise your total Cholesterol as well as the LDL. Mainly found in animal products but also some seafood. However, provided you are not eating the rich fat around a steak or roast every day, or eating a block of cheese three times a week, or a pound of butter on your spuds, you can enjoy what is very tasty component of your diet in moderation.

The fats classified as healthy fats are Monounsaturated fats – which lower total cholesterol and at the same time lower LDL and increase HDL – this is contained in nuts, such as walnuts and olive oil.


Polyunsaturated fats also lower total cholesterol and LDL and these are found in salmon, soya, sunflower oils etc and have a very important component Omega-3 fatty acids. These can not only reduce your LDL and support HDL but are also very helpful in reducing blood pressure and the risk of developing blood clots. Even with people who have already suffered a heart attack including Omega-3 fatty acids in their diet reduces their risk of a fatal attack.


I love fish and living in Spain we are blessed with an abundance and variety so it is very easy to include oily fish at least twice a week. Some of the best for Omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, halibut, mackerel, sardines and Albacore Tuna.

At this point a word about cooking your healthy meals – Olive oil is great but not so good when heated to a really high temperature to cook your steak or fish. Use virgin olive oil if cooking and I will combine with some sunflower oil and a small amount of butter. You should not burn but maintain a temperature that cooks your meat, chicken of fish evenly. I tend to brown the meat in the pan and then transfer to the oven or microwave to finish cooking

For salads, vegetables and on toast use Extra Virgin Olive oil which has not been over processed – do not be tempted to use the light versions on offer as these have been industrialised. Just use the real stuff but a little less.

One of the most popular cholesterol myths… Eggs and your diet.


For many years the advice from nutritional experts is to remove eggs from your diet if you have high cholesterol.. Actually there is very little connection between the dietary cholesterol to be found in eggs and blood cholesterol.

If you are not eating a high proportion of processed foods containing high levels of Trans fats and sugars, eating an egg a day is actually going to be beneficial.

The liver produces much more cholesterol than you can consume from eggs or other animal products however if the rest of your diet is full of industrialised foods then your LDL – Low density lipoprotein is going to be high and that is the harmful form of cholesterol.

An egg has so much more than healthy fats going for it. The yolk is vitamin rich with A, D and E. Especially in the winter months when we are missing sunshine to work with our bodies to produce the essential vitamin D it is important to find another source and eggs are one of the few that are available. Eggs are also a great source of readily available and easy to prepare protein.

If you are in the process of losing weight then eating an egg, three times a week should be part of your healthy eating plan.


Apart from chocolate… Cheese is probably one of my favourite foods. Unfortunately like chocolate it is something that once I start eating I find it difficult to stop. I did an experiment last summer when I was carrying 14lbs more than I wanted. I ate my normal diet for six weeks and just stopped eating my usual daily ration of cheese. I lost the 14lbs in four weeks. I now only eat once a week as part of a cooked meal and have kept the weight off. Back to that old adage.. Everything in moderation….

Food preparation.

It is a great idea to steam, grill or bake your food – if you are eating steak put in the oven in a pan with a grid so that the excess fat drains off – if you fancy a little butter on your vegetables, why not – great taste. Avoid frying everything you eat, especially in cheap cooking fat and this applies when you are out particularly when you have no control about the preparation of your food.

Here is a link to the Food Pharmacy for Olive Oil – great stuff – potent mix of anti-oxidants that can lower the LDL but leave the HDL untouched – obviously if you are overweight it does have a high fat and calorie count but much better to use the Extra Virgin version and get the health benefits than use the diet alternatives. It will also give you more information on the structure of fats.

The greatest gift you can give your body and its cholesterol levels is to avoid eating processed store bought cakes, biscuits, crackers some cheap breads, pasta dishes etc. If you make your own from scratch using butter and eat occasionally you will get a better tasting and healthier alternative.


If you suffer from diabetes the body is less able to maintain a balanced cholesterol level with an increase in LDL and VLDL (Very low density lipo protein) this leads to an increased risk of heart muscle damage and it is important that you have your levels monitored regularly. Having said that it is even more important that you stay away from processed foods, cook from scratch using healthy fats. It is also essential to stay away from high sugar content white carbohydrates instead using a moderate amount of wholegrains. Whilst monitoring by your doctor is available after diagnosis there are millions of people in the world you are pre-diabetic and are not aware of it.

This is why it is important to take responsibility and  visit a pharmacy who offers a panel of tests for Blood Pressure, Blood Sugar and Cholesterol at least once a year to have a clear measurement of these key health indicators.  That puts you in the driving seat and enables you to take action as well as work with your doctor to get you back within healthy ranges.

Cholesterol Levels measurements.

Blood cholesterol is measured in units called millimoles per litre of blood, (mmol/L) UK – you will note that some articles on cholesterol levels will recommend that normal levels should be lower than the recommended levels for healthy or at risk adults.  However, this encourages people to drive their total levels down too far and puts them at risk of other diseases that result from a deficiency of cholesterol. I cannot stress enough how important the role of cholesterol is for the health of our vital organs including the brain.

  • 5mmol/L  for healthy adults
  • 4mmol/L   for those at high risk
  • 5.6mmol/L to 6.2mmol/L considered borderline high
  • Above 6.2mmol/L needs to be lowered.

LDL/HDL levels

It is recommended that levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) should be:  Again LDL does have a role in functions within the body and it is only when it is oxidised by free radicals resulting from unhealthy food choices that it becomes dangerous.

  • 3mmol/L  for healthy adults
  • 2mmol/L for those at high risk
  • 3.4-4.1 mmol/L borderline high
  • 4.1-4.9 mmol/ high
  • Above 4.9 mmol/L very high.

Ideally the level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) should be above 1.6 mmol/L.

Measurements in the United States and other countries are expressed differently and here is the link to the Mayo clinic with their helpful graphics.

To summarise – do not take fats out of your diet – use unprocessed, natural ingredients in your cooking, use fats and oils in moderation, eat plenty of vegetables, seasonal fruits, wholegrains, and eggs. If you are going to eat cheese or other high fat dairy products, do so carefully so that your total fat intake is kept between 20 and 35% of your daily intake depending on whether you need to lose weight or not.

Here are the other posts in this series on Cholesterol and next time I will be looking at another of the key health indicators.. Blood Pressure.