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Be heart healthy
Having high cholesterol is a major risk to heart disease. Cholesterol is fat in the blood that gets stuck inside the arteries and can stop the blood flowing freely to the heart and brain. If blood can’t get to the heart, it can cause a heart attack and stopping blood to the brain will cause a stroke. Having either a heart attack or stroke is very serious and can be very painful, disabling and often fatal.
There are no obvious signs or symptoms with high cholesterol and HEART UK and Amgen have teamed up to encourage people to check their cholesterol levels and manage their cholesterol.
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Getting tested is easy and painless
A test for cholesterol levels can be taken using a small drop of blood from the finger. It is both painless and quick, with results usually available there and then. It is important to get cholesterol levels checked by a properly trained professional rather than trying it yourself. It’s very easy to get levels wrong and we wouldn’t recommend any home testing tests, which can often give wrong and misleading results.
There are two main ways to get your cholesterol levels checked:
The quickest way is to visit a high street pharmacist. Many high street pharmacists will offer a cholesterol check at a modest cost and it can be done there and then, usually without an appointment.
Another way is at an NHS Health Check. The majority of adults over 40 will be invited every 5 years for an NHS Health Check by their GP. Depending on where you live, you could even get an NHS Health Check done in a mobile unit, in a supermarket or even at a tennis or football club. To check where else you can get an NHS Health Check visit the NHS Health Check website here.
Understanding your cholesterol results
Once you’ve got your results the next step is understanding what they mean. To do this you need to ask for all your cholesterol numbers. You’ll be given the overall amount of cholesterol (your total cholesterol) in the blood and usually a measure of your good and/or bad cholesterol.
Ideally, you need to know: your HDL (good) cholesterol, your LDL (bad) cholesterol level, your non-HDL cholesterol or your TC:HDL ratio.
If you are otherwise healthy you should be looking for:
- a total cholesterol level (TC), of less than 5 mmol/L.
- an LDL-cholesterol (LDL-C) of 3 mmol/L or less.
- an HDL-cholesterol of more than 1 mmol/L in men and over 1.2 mmol/L in women
- a non-HDL-cholesterol of 4 mmol/l or less
- a total cholesterol to HDL ratio of less than 5
The test may show your triglyceride levels too. Triglyceride (TG) levels show are how your body clears fat from the blood after a meal. Ideally it should be less than 1.7 mmol/L after a test is taken when you’ve been told not to eat, known as a fasting sample. A non-fasting result should be below 2.3 mmol/L.
Some medical conditions and prescribed medicines can affect your cholesterol levels too. And, if one of your parents, a brother or a sister has high cholesterol you might too.
In people with hereditary high cholesterol, raised levels of cholesterol lead to early heart disease, if left untreated. But early diagnosis of familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) and effective treatment reduces the risk of heart disease and can help ensure that people with FH have a normal life expectancy. You can find out more here.