High Cholesterol

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High Cholesterol

Risks of high cholesterol High cholesterol is not a disease but increases your risk of serious conditions such as: • coronary heart disease, caused by atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries) • stroke • mini-stroke (transient ischaemic attack or TIA)
Having an excessively high level of lipids in your blood (hyperlipidaemia) can have a serious effect on your health as it increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Bad Cholesterol (LDL – low density lipoprotein) accounts for 70% of the cholesterol in our blood and acts to carry cholesterol from your liver to the cells that need it. If there is too much cholesterol for the cells to use, this can cause a harmful build-up in your blood. Good Cholesterol (HDL – high density lipoprotein) carries cholesterol away from the cells and back to the liver for excretion from the body via the gastro-intestinal system. There it is either broken down or passed from the body as a waste product. If your HDL levels are low and your total cholesterol is normal or above then your chances of a heart attack are higher.

Risks of high cholesterol

Triglycerides are the fats you use for energy and come from the fatty foods you eat. There is usually an association between triglycerides and raised cholesterol. Being overweight and drinking too much alcohol can push up triglyceride levels. The optimal total cholesterol target is 4.0 mmol/l and low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol 2.0 mmol/l, or a 25% reduction in total cholesterol and a 30% reduction in LDL cholesterol, whichever gets the person to the lowest absolute value. The government recommends that minimum standards of cholesterol levels should be less than 5.0 mmol/l. In the UK, two out of three adults have a total cholesterol level of 5.0 mmol/l or above. High cholesterol is not a disease but increases your risk of serious conditions such as: • coronary heart disease, caused by atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries) • stroke • mini-stroke (transient ischaemic attack or TIA) “The UK population has one of the highest average cholesterol concentrations in the world.”

Who should be tested?

Anyone can have their blood cholesterol level tested, but it is particularly important to have it checked if: • You have been diagnosed with coronary heart disease, suffered a stroke/mini-stroke or you have leg artery disease • You are over 40 • You have a family history of early cardiovascular disease (for example, if your father or brother developed heart disease or had a heart attack or stroke before the age of 55, or if your mother or sister had these conditions before the age of 65) • A close family member has a cholesterol-related condition, such as familial hypercholesterolaemia (inherited high cholesterol) • You are overweight or obese • You have high blood pressure or diabetes • You have another medical condition such as a kidney condition, an underactive thyroid gland or an inflamed pancreas (pancreatitis). These conditions can cause increased levels of cholesterol or triglycerides

Treating high cholesterol

If you have been diagnosed with high cholesterol, the first method of treatment will usually involve making some changes to your diet (adopting a low-fat diet) and doing plenty of regular exercise. After a few months, if your cholesterol level has not dropped, you will usually be advised to take cholesterol-lowering medication. A healthy diet includes foods from all of the different food groups: • Carbohydrates (cereals, wholegrain bread, potatoes, rice and pasta) • Proteins (lean meat, beans and fish) • Unsaturated fats • Fruit and vegetables (at least five portions a day) You should try to avoid or cut down on the following foods, which are rich in saturated fat: • Fatty cuts of meat and meat products, such as sausages and pies • Butter, ghee and lard • Cream, soured cream, creme fraiche and ice cream • Cheese, particularly hard cheese • Cakes and biscuits • Chocolate • Coconut oil, coconut cream and palm oil Switching saturated fats to mono-unsaturated fats such as olive oil can actually lower total cholesterol whilst preserving the important HDL cholesterol. We also know that the vitamin Niacin can help toreduce cholesterol. It is virtually impossible to develop coronary heart disease if your cholesterol level is below 3.8 mmol/l. Studies overwhelmingly show that it is perfectly possible to stop and even to reverse the build up of fatty deposits within artery walls. You can help prevent getting high blood cholesterol by eating a healthy, balanced diet that is low in saturated fat. For more information visit: www.nhs.uk/conditions/Cholesterol/Pages/Introductio n.aspx www.nhs.uk/LiveWell/healthy- eating/Pages/Healthyeating.aspx www.nhs.uk/LiveWell/Loseweight/Pages/Loseweight home.aspx