Speaking exclusively with Express.co.uk, Martine – who is best known for her roles in EastEnders as Tiffany Mitchell, and in Richard Curtis’s romcom Love Actually – explained that her family’s awareness for high cholesterol started with her grandmother, who was “never quite the same” after a triple heart bypass operation. Due to this, both her mother and her auntie started to regularly check themselves, adapting certain aspects of their lifestyle to proactively keep their cholesterol at a healthy level. It was this personal connection to cholesterol and witnessing the damages it can do when levels get too high, that motivated Martine to support the newest campaign run by Flora ProActiv in partnership with the UK’s only cholesterol charity HEART UK.
HEART UK explains that cholesterol is a type of blood fat, also known as lipid, which we all need to stay healthy. But too much cholesterol can clog up your arteries, which are essential for carrying blood around the body.
When arteries become narrower it is harder for blood to flow through them, putting a strain on the heart as it has to work harder. Similarly, blood clots can form over the fatty hardened parts of the arteries and completely cut off blood flow, putting an individual at risk of stroke or a heart attack.
“I was really shocked when I found out that we had a family history of raised cholesterol because I didn’t think something like that would affect us,” Martine continues to say.
“[But] we knew quite early on about the things that really help such as a change in lifestyle and the importance of getting your cholesterol tested.
“There are so many health conditions that you can’t always make a difference with, but with this in a lot of cases you really can.”
With the knowledge that simple changes to your diet, lifestyle and mindset, are key to lowering cholesterol levels, Martine is a proud ambassador of the latest campaign to help encourage individuals to get tested.
Research of over 2,000 UK adults conducted by Flora ProActiv reveals that one in five (20 percent) of Brits have been diagnosed with raised cholesterol, and a third (33 percent), have never had a cholesterol test.
In light of these shocking statistics, a novelty range of limited-edition Valentine’s Day cards have been created to help educate the UK about cholesterol, as well as prompting as many people to make simple yet healthier choices like switching from dairy butter to Flora ProActiv spread, which contains added plant sterols – an active ingredient clinically proven to help lower cholesterol.
Talking about what attracted her to supporting the campaign, Martine added: “I think it always helps when you are talking about something that has touched your life or touched your family.
“You genuinely understand the issue because you see for yourself the journey that they went on and how things can be turned around. It just felt like the right fit.”
All products by Flora ProActiv have been awarded the “stamp of approval” by HEART UK, stating that a daily consumption of 1.5 to 2.4 grams of the spread can help to lower cholesterol by seven to 10 percent in as little as two to three weeks, along with the sufficient consumption of fruit and vegetables.
The Mayo Clinic and NHS agree that high cholesterol levels show no symptoms, so the only possible way to know is through a blood test. This can be done through your local GP who can take blood from your arm or at a pharmacy, with a finger prick test that checks your cholesterol level in a few minutes.
“Compared to what everybody has been through the last couple of years, it is really quite simple,” Martine explains in relation to getting a cholesterol test.
“You can either go to the doctors and have a little finger prick test, or you can even get them in your local pharmacy. I know that the best thing you can do if you do have those issues [high cholesterol] is to start using things such as Flora ProActiv as it is lower in saturated fats. It’s a given for me in my family, it’s been in the fridge for so long!
“I really hope that people get tested and if they find out there is an issue that they get it under control as it can make a massive difference to their life, meaning there is less of a medical problem.”
The NHS explain that although cholesterol levels might be different for everyone, a general guide for what different cholesterol levels should be is as follows:
- Total cholesterol – five or below
- HDL (good cholesterol) – one or above
- LDL (bad cholesterol) – three or below
- Non-HDL (bad cholesterol) – four or below
- Triglyceride – 2.3 or below.
As well as using alternatives such as Flora ProActiv to lower cholesterol levels, the NHS recommends that individuals should eat more oily fish, brown rice, bread and pasta, nuts and seeds and fruit and vegetables.
More importantly it is best to avoid, or eat less of the following:
- Meat pies, sausages and fatty meat
- Butter, lard and ghee
- Cream and hard cheese, like cheddar
- Cakes and biscuits
- Food that contains coconut oil or palm oil.
Exercise is also critical in lowering cholesterol, and individuals should aim to do at least 150 minutes (two and a half hours) of exercise a week. This can include different exercises such as walking, swimming or cycling.
Other lifestyle changes such as stopping smoking and cutting down on alcohol intake will help individuals avoid the need for cholesterol-lowering medication such as statins.
Martine McCutcheon is working with Flora ProActiv to announce their partnership with HEART UK & educate the UK on the importance of understanding & testing cholesterol levels. This Valentine’s Day, Flora ProActiv has created a set of Thortful cards to encourage cholesterol testing, where all proceeds will go to HEART UK.