For more details on what cholesterol is and how you can reduce your bad cholesterol please visit the following links and useful information on this page:
Cholesterol is carried in your blood by proteins. The two main types are:
high-density lipoprotein (HDL) – carries cholesterol away from the cells and back to the liver, where it's either broken down or passed out of the body as a waste product; for this reason, HDL is referred to as "good cholesterol", and higher levels are better.
low-density lipoprotein (LDL) – carries cholesterol to the cells that need it, but if there's too much cholesterol for the cells to use, it can build up in the artery walls, leading to disease of the arteries; for this reason, LDL is known as "bad cholesterol"
The recommended cholesterol levels in the blood vary between those with a higher or lower risk of developing arterial disease.
As a general guide, total cholesterol levels should be:
5mmol/L or less for healthy adults
4mmol/L or less for those at ‘high risk’
As a general guide, LDL levels should be:
3mmol/L or less for healthy adults
2mmol/L or less for those at ‘high risk’
An ideal level of HDL is above 1mmol/L. A lower level of HDL can increase your risk of heart disease. Your ratio of total cholesterol to HDL may also be calculated.
Generally, this ratio should be below 6, as a higher ratio increases your risk of heart disease.
However, cholesterol is only one risk factor and the level at which specific treatment is required will depend on whether other risk factors, such as smoking and high blood pressure, are also present.
Many factors can increase your chances of having heart problems or a stroke if you have high cholesterol. These include:
- an unhealthy diet – in particular, eating high levels of saturated fat:
- smoking – a chemical found in cigarettes called acrolein stops HDL transporting cholesterol from fatty deposits to the liver, leading to narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis)
- having diabetes or high blood pressure (hypertension)
- having a family history of stroke or heart disease
- There's also an inherited condition called familial hypercholesterolaemia, which can cause high cholesterol even in someone who eats healthily.
Evidence shows that high cholesterol can increase the risk of:
transient ischaemic attack (TIA) – often known as a "mini stroke"
This is because cholesterol can build up in the artery wall, restricting the blood flow to your heart, brain and the rest of your body. It also increases the risk of a blood clot developing somewhere in your body.
The first step in reducing your cholesterol is to maintain a healthy, balanced diet. It's important to keep your diet low in fatty food.
You can swap food containing saturated fat for fruit, vegetables and wholegrain cereals. This will also help prevent high cholesterol returning.
If these measures don't reduce your cholesterol and you continue to have a high risk of developing heart disease, your GP may prescribe a cholesterol-lowering medication, such as statins.
Your GP will take into account the risk of any side effects from statins, and the benefit of lowering your cholesterol must outweigh any risks.
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