Edited by Dr Claudia Pastides, 29th March 2019
Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is required by the human body for it to function well. However having too much cholesterol in the blood (hypercholesterolaemia) can put you at increased risk of heart disease.
There aren’t usually any symptoms of hypercholesterolaemia, so the only way to know if you have it is by having a blood test. On a blood test result there are different types of cholesterol, called LDL and HDL. HDL (high density lipoprotein) is known as “good cholesterol” and LDL (low density lipoprotein) is known as “bad cholesterol”.
A combination of genetics and lifestyle are often the cause.
- A diet high in saturated fats (see https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/eat-less-saturated-fat/ for a list of food that is high in saturated fats)
- A diet high in trans fats (see https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/TransFats.pdf for information on trans fats)
- Being obese (a BMI greater than 30)
- Age (the older you get, the more your cholesterol is likely to rise)
- Lack of exercise
Usually hypercholesterolaemia doesn’t present with any symptoms. On some occasions people with a high cholesterol can have corneal arcus (a visible white ring of fat deposits within the coloured part of the eye) or cholesterol deposits on tendons or under the skin that manifest as fatty lumps called xanthoma.
- Diet changes
- Weight loss
- Stopping smoking
- Statins (medication to lower cholesterol)
When to speak to a doctor
- If you are worried about your cholesterol level, speak to a GP. Your initial concern can often be managed via a digital consultation.
- If you have a family history of a genetic condition called Familial Hypercholesterolaemia it is important to let your GP know, as 50% of children of parents with this condition are also likely to have it.
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- It is recommended that people aged 40-74 have a health check every 5 years. As part of that health check, your cholesterol will often be measured.
- Following a balanced mediterranean diet, exercising regularly and not smoking will reduce your risk of hypercholesterolaemia
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.