What is high cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fatty substance (lipid) which is vital for normal and healthy functioning of the body. However, having high levels of cholesterol in your blood can have a detrimental effect on your health. Having a high cholesterol is associated with an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Cholesterol is carried in your blood in various forms. Low density lipoprotein (LDL) carries cholesterol from your liver where it is made to the rest of the body. If there is too much LDL it can collect in the walls of arteries and cause narrowing that can lead to heart disease or strokes. LDL is often therefore referred to as ‘bad’ cholesterol. On the other hand, high density lipoprotein (HDL) carries cholesterol away from the body back to the liver where it is broken down and therefore HDL is referred to as good cholesterol.
How is cholesterol assessed?
The amount of good and bad cholesterol can be measured in your blood stream with a simple blood test. In association with other risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes and family history, the results can be used to assess your risk of developing heart attacks or strokes.
What are the treatments for high cholesterol?
Lowering a high cholesterol level requires a number of lifestyle changes including maintaining a healthy balanced diet, reducing your fat intake, eating more fruit, vegetables and wholegrain cereals, quit smoking and doing regular exercise. If these measures don’t reduce your cholesterol and you continue to be at a high risk of heart disease, you may need cholesterol-lowering medication such as statins. Your cardiologist will be able to advise you on the best treatment options.