Fact sheets
Fact sheets

HEART UK has produced a range of diet and medical fact sheets for you to use and refer to.

 
Reducing cholesterol

Making changes to the food you eat and being more active can help lower your cholesterol to normal levels.

In some cases, particularly if you are older or at greater risk, you may also need to take a cholesterol-lowering medicine like a statin. Statins are very effective, safe and well tolerated and have been shown to reduce heart attacks.

 
The silent killer

Most people don’t know they have raised cholesterol. There are no clear symptoms. For some, the first sign might be a heart attack.

Staying healthy

Eating a healthy diet, not smoking and being physically active are important in helping to keep your cholesterol and other blood fats low.

What can be done?
What can be done?

If your cholesterol level is high, you can start to lower it by eating a healthy diet or being more active. Some people may also need to take a medicine called a statin.

Who is at risk?

Six out of every ten people in the UK have raised or abnormal levels of blood cholesterol.

Cholesterol increases as you get older. It can also increase if you;

  • eat too much saturated fat
  • gain too much weight
  • are not very active

Some people have high cholesterol because they have inheritied this trait from a parent.

Test your cholesterol knowledge

How well do you know Britian's biggest silent killer?

Q

It is possible to born with very high levels of cholesterol in the body.

A

Yes it is possible to be born with high cholesterol levels. Familial Hypercholesterolaemia (FH) is an inherited condition passed down through generations, and affects people from birth. There is a 50 percent chance of inheriting FH if a parent has the condition. One in 500 people are born with this kind of high cholesterol.

Q

True or False - Is ten is a healthy cholesterol level? 

A

FALSE - For most people a healthy total cholesterol level is below 5 mmol/L (which is short for millimoles per litre of blood) and a healthy LDL (Low density lipoprotein) cholesterol should be below 3 mmol/L.  People at high risk of cardiovascular disease are encouraged to reduce their cholesterol levels even further (total cholesterol level below 4 mmol/L and LDL below 2 mmol/L) .  A cholesterol of ten mmol/L would not be considered a healthy level.  If your cholesterol level is raised you should talk to your GP and discuss the reasons for this and measures to reduce it.

Q

What percentage of the UK’s adult population have levels of cholesterol higher than is recommended?
(a)  20%  (b)  30%  (c) 50%   (d) 60%   (e) 75%

A

(d) 60% - Six out of every 10 UK adults have a cholesterol level of above 5 mmol/L. It is recommended you have check-ups with your doctor every five years, eat less saturated fat, stop smoking and exercise regularly.

Q

TRUE or FALSE  - my cholesterol levels must be fine because I am only in my twenties, not my sixties.

A

FALSE – People at any age are at risk from cholesterol, even children. Studies have shown that children and adolescents who have inherited high cholesterol are more likely to develop early heart disease as adults. It is recommended that you have your cholesterol levels checked if you have a history of early heart disease in close family members.

Q

TRUE or FALSE - if I had high cholesterol I would know because there are obvious symptoms

A

FALSE – Having high cholesterol usually has no noticeable symptoms, which is why it is known as Britain’s silent killer. Although you can help reduce your risk of developing high cholesterol  by eating healthily, exercising and stopping smoking, it is also important to have your levels checked every 5 years after you reach the age of 40, earlier if there is a history of early heart disease in close family members.

Q

TRUE or FALSE - only overweight people have high levels of cholesterol.

A

FALSE – If you are overweight or obese this gives you a greater chance of raised cholesterol levels, but not all overweight or obese people will have high cholesterol.  However, thin people may have high cholesterol levels.   A lack of exercise, unhealthy eating, smoking and genetic factors all play a part in raising  cholesterol levels.

Q

Am I right in assuming that my doctor has never mentioned my cholesterol level being a concern, so it must be fine.

A

No – We recommend you take the initiative and ask your doctor about your cholesterol levels and the need to have these tested.  The doctor should invite you for a health check once you reach the age of 40 or above, but if if you have a history of early heart disease in close family relatives we would recommend that your cholesterol is checked well before this time. Your GP should be able to advise you on ways in which you can help lower your cholesterol.  However, these will be dependent on the cause of your raised cholesterol and any other risk factors for heart disease.

Q

TRUE or FALSE - Smoking cigarettes can make cholesterol more damaging in the body.

A

TRUE – Smoking can decrease the good cholesterol in the body (HDL) and may increase and/or change the bad cholesterol (LDL) particle so that it is more likely to stick to the inside of blood vessels causing damage to your arteries. 

Q

TRUE or FALSE - pregnancy doesn’t affect cholesterol levels.

A

FALSE – During pregnancy the body’s cholesterol levels increase as they are needed for the baby’s growth. This is perfectly normal.  Breast milk is also high in cholesterol.  It is important that women planning a pregnancy should stop taking any cholesterol lowering medication at least three months before trying to become pregnant and only restart after the pregnancy and breastfeeding period.

Q

TRUE or FALSE - Lowering cholesterol too much can be harmful.

A

FALSE - Researchers have looked at this and have concluded that there are no health risks associated with lowering cholesterol. More cholesterol is required in children and adolescents as they grow so there is more careful monitoring of progress in these groups that are being treated with cholesterol lowering medicines.