Davina Mccall is backing the new campaign by Raisio Nutrition to shine a light on the importance of getting your cholesterol levels checked. Having first hand experience with high cholesterol herself, this is something Davina is an authority on, so we caught up with her to find out how she personally manages it and how appearances can be deceiving with this hidden health concern.
What can you tell us about your new campaign with Raisio Nutrition?
High cholesterol strikes fear into everybody’s heart- it’s a hidden danger, you can’t really see it, you don’t know it’s there, you don’t know you’ve got it but it is something that you can manage.
Interestingly, I just had my bloods taken and for the first time in I don’t know how long, my cholesterol is just a tiny, tiny bit over the highest recommended amount so that’s a massive achievement for me.
There are ways you can manage it, but so few people get it checked. I would never have known that I had high cholesterol but I wanted to get pregnant, and I was a very anxious first time mother. I wanted to do everything right so I went to get my bloods checked.
I really didn’t need to...well, actually, it turned out that I did because if you do have high cholesterol, it’s a good thing to know.
So, I found out then totally by accident and I was surprised because I didn’t feel like that person. I didn’t feel like the person who should have high cholesterol- why did I get it? You know what’s funny, when something happens to you like that and you start asking family members- ‘have you got high cholesterol?’, my dad goes- ‘oh yeah, I’ve got high cholesterol’, then I asked my granny- ‘have you got high cholesterol?’ and she said ‘oh yes, I’ve got high cholesterol’ and I’m like ‘it’s you lot- you’ve given it to me!’
I feel like it’s something really worth looking into because- as I have proven to myself- you can manage it by making some sensible food choices. So that is what I am trying to do- Raisio Nutrition who are in charge of this campaign- make products such as Benecol to help lower your cholesterol but they do know that people aren’t aware if they have high cholesterol or not so it’s a really important campaign to get out there because it’s a way of looking after your health.
You found out at age 28, and it’s something a lot of people would associate with an older person so can this just strike at any time in life?
I think it can because I did a shoot the other day interestingly with people who had high cholesterol and even I was surprised because there was a 24 year old pro footballer there and he’s got high cholesterol. So it can be something that you have through just your diet and eating a lot of fatty foods, it can also be something that you are blighted with through family or genes or something like that but it doesn’t mean you can’t do something about it.
What kind of diet changes would you recommend?
Well I follow a Mediterranean diet, I have to have butter on my crumpets that is non-negotiable but obviously, there are butter substitutes that can you can get that taste amazing. Benecol do an amazing range and it’s not just that they are better but they actually lower cholesterol. These products have ingredients in them that lower cholesterol so I have changed my milk in my tea because I have a lot of tea in a day and I have changed my milk on my cereal. I have made changes but they are not changes that make me feel like I am denying myself of something.
Interestingly, I am half French and I was completely addicted to salami, antipasti, olives and cheese- LOVED! I hardly eat that ever now, that would be a real treat for me. It’s as much of a treat as a banoffee pie because processed meat and any cheese is quite full on. You can get cholesterol lowering cheese- Benecol do one- you can get cheeses that are better for you. There are things that you can do in terms of every food you like- except for salami, you can’t really swap that out!
You have mentioned already that you’ve recently had your cholesterol checked, so is this something that you do regularly now or was it just ahead of the campaign?
Oh yes, I haven’t checked it for a year because of covid but I try and check it every six months to keep an eye on it. I didn’t when it first happened- I did it once a year but I want to keep on top of it and make sure that it’s not skyrocketing. My cholesterol level went up a lot when I was pregnant and I think that is a very normal thing to happen but you do need to keep an eye on it to see if it comes back down. As I’ve got older I’ve wanted to keep an eye on it as well.
There are things people do that have an instant noticeable impact - if you smoke, you struggle with your breathing and if you eat too much you become overweight- do think because cholesterol is a hidden problem that the campaign images will drive people to go and get checked out?
I think when you are young that’s when you don’t really care about your cholesterol but that’s when you can actually make a difference. If you catch it early enough- you can help your veins stay as healthy as you need them to be and for as long as possible. Your twenties would be a really good time to keep an eye on it. If it’s within the normal range, you probably don’t need to check it for a while but like you said it’s not noticeable- it’s not something you will see until you are very sick. It is something you want to keep on top of and be aware of and remember that it can happen to anyone. I think that’s the big message.
What can happen if you don’t pay attention to it now?
It clogs your arteries and if your blood can’t flow properly then there are problems with your heart and when there are problems with your heart, you can become seriously ill and even die from it. That is why cholesterol is such a big, important thing. Sometimes people are given statins for it but it’s much, much better to deal with it via food. If you can somehow eat in a way that will keep it in the normal range that is much better.
The other shocking statistic from the campaign is that 6/10 people in the UK have high cholesterol. Is there something that we are doing as Brits that is contributing to an elevated cholesterol?
I think it’s partially to do with diet because some people are getting too much fat in their diet but this is why it’s important to say that it doesn’t matter about your size or your weight- it might be familial, it might be hereditary and that is why you really need to keep an eye on it and make sure you know because it might not be obvious.
If you are someone who really enjoys a fatty diet, which I absolutely was before I found out- I would eat cheese for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It would be the runniest, fattiest cheese, I used butter to cook everything- I just love fat but I thought- I love my heart more and need to take care of it!
I am actually really proud of myself because it’s quite hard to get your cholesterol down but I have found a way of doing it where I don’t feel like I’m restricting my fun at all. I’m still eating food I like and I still eat butter on my crumpets but I have been able to get it down to a point just by using cholesterol lowering products.
You are someone who seems to get more radiant with age, so I wondered what does a typical day look like in terms of what you eat?
I am a great believer in what my granny told me which is ‘a little bit of what you fancy does you good’. So I try not to say ‘I’m never going to have that again!’ because immediately it just makes me want it more and more. I eat a bowl of cereal most days that is very heavy on the old fibre. On weekends I will have crumpets, I have a crumpet and a half- very weird I know! Two is too many and one is not enough and I will have butter on that because I have had my fibre cereal all week. On my cereal I have my cholesterol lowering milk but the butter is full on, full fat and I have honey on that.
For lunch and dinner I will have one big, normal meal with carbs, protein and fat- a normal, well rounded meal. For my other meal I will have a soup and a salad or a chunky salad with protein in it.
For snacks, I will have nuts and sometimes I will be naughty. I don’t want people to feel guilty. I don’t know what weight I am now- I couldn’t tell you- but I am probably a bit more than I would like to be at the moment because I put on my jeans this morning and they were a bit tight- and that is what I go by- how tight are these jeans? When they are snug and I can’t quite do the button up at the top or I am having to breathe in that I when I know.
Covid has been a hard time for all of us and I am not going to give myself a hard time about that. The minute you give yourself a hard time about something and you get up and say ‘today I am not going to do this’ or ‘today I am definitely going to exercise’- you end up giving yourself such a hard time and it makes you not want to do it. A little bit of what you fancy does you good- just try to remember that.
Try and make working out fun, try and make eating fun and varied. I try not to get bored with food because I get bored with food easily so I am always trying to make something different and mix it up.
Because of the pandemic people might not want to go and get their cholesterol checked so would you encoruage people to still do so?
I think GPs are beginning to see people again and I know they have probably got a backlog of people to see but if you are worried about it, it might be worth checking with your family to see if anyone has high cholesterol there first. People don’t talk about it- and if someone has got high cholesterol- get yours checked.
You can phone on the day at 8.30am and they can generally see you. Often a blood test is not something you need to do with the doctor- you can go and see the nurse in the clinic and they take the bloods and the doctor can tell you the results. If there is no problem with the results they can just phone you, but I would recommend it- it’s worth knowing.
What’s in store for you in the rest of 2021?
The Masked Dance is coming out, which I’m really excited about. It was such a laugh doing that series and we had some amazing guests on. Oti Mabuse joined us of course for this series because she has all the dance know how. We’ve just got another series of Long Lost Family commissioned so we will start that again soon. We will also be recording another Masked Singer at the end of the year so we are busy, busy!
Davina is supporting Cholesterol Uncovered, a new campaign from Raisio Nutrition Ltd. which aims to encourage people to reconsider their diet and lifestyle choices by highlighting what’s happening under the surface for people with high cholesterol.
For more information and advice, visit www.Benecol.co.uk
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