Frequently Asked Questions
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that the body used to build cell membranes and some hormones. Most cholesterol in the body has been produced there, from saturated fats, although some cholesterol is consumed in food. Cholesterol is transported around the body through the blood. If the level of the cholesterol that is in the blood becomes too high, it can be dangerous.
What causes high cholesterol?
High cholesterol can occur as the result of an inherited medical condition, but it is generally the result of lifestyle choices. Lack of exercise, overeating and a diet that contains too many saturated fats can lead to high cholesterol.
How dangerous is high cholesterol?
If the level of cholesterol that is inside the blood rises too high, deposits of cholesterol can be laid down inside the blood vessels. These plaques of cholesterol can make the blood vessels narrower or even block them completely. Angina, heart attacks and strokes can all occur as a result of high cholesterol.
How is high cholesterol treated?
High cholesterol is usually treated through diet and exercise. Limiting the amount of calories that are eaten and exercising regularly, for at least half an hour, five times a week, can be helpful. Replacing saturated fats in the diet with other types of fats can also help to lower cholesterol.
What is the difference between good and bad cholesterol?
The two forms of cholesterol in the blood are LDL or bad cholesterol and HDL or good cholesterol. Cholesterol in the blood is carried by a lipoprotein, which may be either LDL or HDL. The carriers affect the way the cholesterol behaves. LDL cholesterol can form deposits in the blood vessels when it is present in large amounts. HDL cholesterol does not.
What are triglycerides?
Triglycerides are a type of fat that is also present in the blood. As with cholesterol, high levels of triglycerides raise the risk of heart disease.
How are cholesterol levels tested and what do the results mean?
Cholesterol levels can be measured through a blood test. The test measures the amount of HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. The ratio of good to bad cholesterol may also be measured. Your doctor will be able to explain your results to you, but essentially, if you have more than about 200 milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter, you will be considered to have high cholesterol.
When should I have my cholesterol levels tested?
It is sensible to have your cholesterol levels tested about once every five years, even if you feel healthy. If you are found to have high cholesterol, your doctor may advise you to be tested more frequently in order to see if your lifestyle changes are having an effect on your cholesterol levels.