This article has been written and medically approved by Pharmacist Conor McSorley GPhC Reg No. 2223070
Cholesterol is an essential requirement by the body as it plays a vital role in making hormones, building cells and allowing us to turn sunlight into vitamin D. It is a fat-like substance that is made in the liver and is found in some foods too.
Although cholesterol is needed in the body, only a small amount is sufficient. As cholesterol is circulated in the blood, having too much cholesterol puts your arteries at risk of being clogged up which can result in health conditions in the future. Cardiovascular diseases, such a heart disease and stroke are at a much higher risk in people with high cholesterol levels.
High cholesterol levels may be caused by eating fatty food, not exercising enough, being overweight, smoking and drinking alcohol. Genetics can also play an important role.
If you are suffering from high cholesterol you might not even know it! High cholesterol doesn’t cause symptoms and the only way to find out your levels is to have a blood test.
You are more likely to have high cholesterol if you fall under the categories below, you should therefore speak to your pharmacy team about a cholesterol test if you are:
- Over 40 years old
- Related to someone with high cholesterol or heart problems
If you are concerned about your cholesterol levels, we now offer a health and wellbeing clinic at Dovehouse Parade, Solihull. More information can be found at Browns Pharmacy Full Health Check | Dovehouse Parade
Understanding your Cholesterol Test Result
During a cholesterol check at our Dovehouse clinic, one of our trained healthcare professionals will discuss your result with you in detail and explain how you can lower your levels.
Our cholesterol test will measure
This is the overall amount of cholesterol in your blood, including both the good ‘HDL’ and bad ‘LDL’ cholesterol.
Ideally this result should be below 5.0 mmol/L or below 193 mg/dL. If you are high risk of CVD or have high blood pressure, diabetes or have had a cardiovascular event previously, you should aim for 4.0 mmol/L or less.
If you have a high total cholesterol reading, this can be reduced by some simple diet and lifestyle changes, such as:
- Increasing the amount of exercise you are doing weekly
- Reducing the amount of highly saturated foods you are eating (butter, lard, full-fat dairy products)
- Switching to use more lean meats rather than fatty meats.
- Increasing the number of ‘meat-free’ days and eating more fruits, vegetables and wholegrains.
Total Cholesterol to HDL ratio (TC:HDL)
The level of good cholesterol in your blood compared to your overall cholesterol level. HDL cholesterol carries LDL cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver where LDL is broken down.
This reading is important for working out if your overall cholesterol levels are healthy, which will determine your risk of CVD.
Above 6.0 is considered high risk – the lower the figure is better, ideally 4.5
This is thought of as the ‘good’ cholesterol and may protect you against heart attack and stroke. HDL cholesterol carries LDL cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver where LDL is broken down.
Results should ideally be over 1.2mmol/L for women and 1mmol/L for men.
To maintain HDL-C levels, you should:
- Remain active
- Avoid smoking
- Try to lose any excess abdominal fat
Your non-HDL cholesterol is your total cholesterol minus your HDL cholesterol. This contributes to fatty build ups in your arteries. This can narrow your blood vessels and increase your risk of heart attack, stroke and CVD.
This should ideally be 4mmol/L or less
If your reading is above 4mmol/L, your doctor may recommend a statin but will recommend you follow healthy living advice too.
These are a fatty substance similar to bad cholesterol. Very high levels can cause a painful condition called pancreatitis
Ideally you should have less than 1.7 mmol/L on a fasting sample or less than 2.3mmol/L on a non-fasting sample.
You can reduce your levels by:
- Losing weight
- Being more active
- Eating sensibly
- Reducing intake of excess alcohol, sugary foods and saturated fats.
- Increasing intake of fruit, vegetables, pulses and wholegrains.
Still unsure and want more advice? Speak to your doctor, or visit the British Heart Foundation and Heart UK, the cholesterol charity.