High Cholesterol – Causes and Treatments

Finger Prick Test


High Cholesterol
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If you have high cholesterol, you have a greater risk of developing heart disease, vascular dementia or of having a stroke. In this article, we’ll tell you more about this condition. You can find out the symptoms and how to treat the condition.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fatty substance in your blood. Everybody has it, it’s produced by the liver. We do need some cholesterol because our cells use it.  Cholesterol makes vitamin D, some hormones and cell membranes.

Are there different types?

There are two different types of cholesterol. One is good and the other is bad. Good cholesterol is High-Density Lipoproteins or HDL. This form of cholesterol works to remove the bad cholesterol from your body. It takes it back to the liver which breaks it down and then passes it out of the body.

Bad cholesterol is Non-high-density lipoproteins or Non-HDL. Bad cholesterol is also often called LDL cholesterol, but as it isn’t the only bad form, we now say Non-HDL.

The fatty substance in the blood is bad cholesterol, it will block your arteries and cause them to clog up with fat and narrow. Narrow arteries mean your blood isn’t able to pass through them efficiently and may cause a heart attack or stroke.

What are triglycerides?

When you have a blood analysis you may have noticed that triglycerides are on the list with your cholesterol reading. Triglycerides are also a type of fat in our blood (a lipid).

The calories that aren’t needed for energy convert into triglycerides. Fat cells then store them. When we need energy we release triglycerides. If we eat too much and don’t exercise the triglycerides keep hold of the fat which will then block or narrow the arteries.

What causes cholesterol levels to rise?

A lot of the time high cholesterol is caused by your lifestyle and making lifestyle changes can lower your cholesterol levels.  Some of the things you can do include:

Eat less saturated fat – A lot of processed foods and in meat such as sausages, bacon, and hamburgers contain saturated fat. You’ll also find saturated fat in whole milk, hard cheese, butter, cream, and ice cream.

Eat less Trans fats – Trans fats are in cakes, pastries and pies, takeaway meals, and fried food. Maintain a healthy weight – If you are overweight have a look at the British Heart Foundation website for some ideas on how to choose a diet that will suit you.

Take up some form of exercise. -Walking is very good for you and doesn’t cost any money. If you like swimming head for your local pool or join an exercise class locally. You can also do exercises at home. Search YouTube for an exercise routine you’d like to do.

Give up smoking – smoking can also effect you. The tar in your arteries makes the cholesterol easier to stick to your artery walls.

If cholesterol isn’t caused by your lifestyle, it may be caused because:

  • You are getting older
  • You come from certain ethnic backgrounds
  • You have liver or kidney disease
  • You have an underactive thyroid
  • You were born with the condition (Familial Hypercholesterolaemia (FH)

How do you find out what your level is?

You can go to your doctor’s or your local pharmacy. You can have the test by pricking your finger or by taking blood from your arm. Your doctor or pharmacist will check your levels for good and bad cholesterol along with your triglycerides

What do the readings mean?

According to the NHS, you should aim to have a total cholesterol reading of 5 or below. Good cholesterol should be 1 or above and Non-HDL (bad) should be less than 4.

Your triglycerides should be 1.7 or below if you did a fasting test or 2.3. or below if you ate before doing the blood test.

If your total reading is higher than 5 then your doctor or pharmacist will talk to you about achieving a lower number.

Is there any treatment for high cholesterol?

As we have said lifestyle changes do help. But your doctor might also prescribe drugs or statins, which you will need to take once a day. If you would like more information about how to lower your cholesterol speak to us here at the pharmacy. We’re always happy to give help and advice.

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