Did you know that cardiovascular disease (CVD), including coronary heart disease and stroke, due to high cholesterol is the number one cause of death globally?

We have broken down information on what your cholesterol is, the importance of your cholesterol, how you can lower your levels of cholesterol in your blood and test your cholesterol levels at home.

This week, LetsGetChecked discusses how to monitor and prevent high cholesterol.


Contents



What is cholesterol?


Cholesterol is a naturally occuring substance in your blood, which is a waxy, fat-like substance that floats within your blood stream. We all need it in our system, as it has many important functions in the body.

A person needs cholesterol in order to make vital hormones, for example testosterone and oestrogen. We need it to absorb fat soluble vitamins, including A, D, E and K.


HDL vs. LDL: What is the difference?


Cholesterol can be broken up into two categories; good cholesterol and bad cholesterol.

LDL, which stands for low density lipoprotein. It is more commonly known as the bad/lousy cholesterol. Too much LDL can cause build up in the arteries throughout the body, particularly in and around the heart and the brain, known as plaques.

Good cholesterol is more formally known as HDL (high density lipoprotein). HDL collects excessive LDL or bad cholesterol and brings it back to the liver to clear it out of the body. HDL cholesterol also cleans the inner walls (endothelium) of blood vessels, which reduces the risk of blockages.

When the plaque in the arteries builds up too much, it can create a blockage in the cardiac arteries, or more commonly, a heart attack. When a blockage occurs in the arteries that supply the brain, this can cause a stroke or mini stroke.



What causes high cholesterol?


There are a number of causes of high cholesterol. Genetically, someone can have a family history of high cholesterol and have none of the risk factors associated with it.

You can be exercise frequently with a great diet and still have high cholesterol, if you have a first degree relative (e.g. mom/dad/uncle/aunt) who have high cholesterol. In this case, it normally would require medication, as diet and exercise may not help reduce it.

Obesity would be a leading contributor to high cholesterol. A diet that consists of processed foods, sweets/candy and high saturated fats, including fatty meats and dairy, contribute to high cholesterol. Smoking also affects your cholesterol levels.


How is cholesterol monitored?


In order to monitor your cholesterol, you must provide a fasting sample, meaning that you have no food or drink for 12 hours before you take the test; fasting from midnight before and taking your sample in the morning is normally the chosen protocol.

When taking a cholesterol test, your results will show your total cholesterol number which is made up of all the different parts of cholesterol. It will also provide you with HDL and LDL cholesterol levels, triglycerides level and a percentage of the HDL that makes up your total cholesterol.


How is high cholesterol treated?


Trying to lose weight by increasing your physical activity and changing your diet and being more health conscious about saturated fats, dairy, cheeses etc. Some foods are very high in cholesterol and it’s important to identify them and try and reduce and eliminate them from your diet.

If changes have been made to your lifestyle, and there is no signs of decreasing your levels of cholesterol, a medical professional may advise you to take anti-cholesterol medication, also known as a statin.


For the differences between good and bad cholestorol, check out this short video with Dr. Dominic Rowley:


How to test your cholesterol with an at home test


At LetsGetChecked, we offer an at home Heart Check, which indicates your level of risk for cardiovascular (heart) disease by determining the levels of lipids or fats in your blood.

Order your At Home Cholesterol Test and be aware of your cholesterol levels:


Read 10 Simple Tips for a Healthy Heart


Written by Hannah Kingston | Approved by Medical Director Dominic Rowley