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Cholesterol

High cholesterol can increase your risk of developing heart disease, such as having a heart attack or stroke.

Cholesterol is a natural fatty substance found in your blood and it is essential for healthy functioning of the body. Cholesterol is made in the liver, but we also get cholesterol from the food we eat, in particular from high fat foods.

Too much cholesterol in the body can cause fatty deposits to build up in the arteries, increasing your risk of heart and stroke illnesses.

Cholesterol is carried in your blood by proteins and are known as lipoproteins when they combine together. There are two main types of cholesterol or lipoproteins.

‘Good’ cholesterol or High Density Lipoproteins (HDL) that takes fat away from your artery walls

‘Bad’ cholesterol or Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL) that sticks to your artery walls and causes a fatty build up.

There is another type of fat called Triglycerides. This is a fatty substance found in our blood and its presence is linked to unhealthy lifestyles such as drinking too much alcohol or eating high fat and sugary food. Triglycerides can lead to the narrowing of the artery walls, increasing your risk of heart disease or stroke.

You can have a normal level of HDL and non-HDL cholesterol but still, have a high triglyceride level.

How is cholesterol measured?

NICHS’s cholesterol check is done by pricking your finger, similar to the NHS Health Check. A drop of blood is put on a strip of paper. This is put into a machine that checks your cholesterol in minutes

What is the recommended level of cholesterol? 

  • Should be below 5.0mmol/L.

  • Should be above 1.0 mmol/L for males and above 1.2mmol/L for females.

  • Should be below 3.0 mmol/L.

  • Should be below 1.5 mmol/L.

  • Should be below 4.5mmol/L.

What causes high cholesterol?

High cholesterol is often related to unhealthy lifestyle habits, such a diet high in saturated fat, not getting enough exercise, being overweight or having too much body fat and smoking. Making changes to your lifestyle will help reduce your cholesterol. It is also important to take any medication prescribed by your doctor.

High cholesterol does not cause symptoms. You can only find out if you have it from a blood test.

High cholesterol can sometimes be inherited from our families and can increase with age. Familial Hypercholesterolaemia (FH), a form of high cholesterol you are born within your genes. 

There is no cure for FH but treatment can reduce the risks of developing heart disease and early detection is vital.

How often should I get my cholesterol checked?

It is recommended that you get your cholesterol checked regularly, particularly if you are over 40 or if you are exposed to other risk factors in your diet, lifestyle or family history. There are no physical signs and symptoms of high cholesterol. If you already have high cholesterol or a medical condition that increases cardiovascular risk you should take advice from your GP on how often to get checked.

For more information on our Well Checks which include a cholesterol test, and to book yours online click here.

What can I do to reduce my cholesterol? 

You may initially be advised to try to lower your cholesterol by making some lifestyle changes.

1. Eat a healthy  balanced diet that is low in fat and high in fruit, vegetables and healthy carbohydrates
2. Manage your weight in line with recommended levels.
3. Increase your physical activity and exercise. 
4. Limit your alcohol to recommended levels.
5. Don’t smoke 

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