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Cholesterol – Fact

Tape measure over red alabaster heart

7 out of 10 adults over 45 have high cholesterol levels – and are at increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

In the UK, the ideal level of total cholesterol is less than 5mmol/l. Anything more than 5 is classed as high with 6.5 – 7.8 being moderately high and 7.8 or more being very high.

Cholesterol. What is it?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance your body uses to protect nerves, make cell tissues and produce certain hormones in the body. All the cholesterol your body needs is made by your liver. Cholesterol in the food you eat (such as eggs, meats and dairy products) counts as extra, and too much cholesterol can have negative impacts on your health.

Why is a high cholesterol level unhealthy?
While some cholesterol is needed for good health, too much cholesterol in your blood can raise your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. The extra cholesterol in your blood may be stored in your arteries (blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body). The build up of cholesterol (called plaque) in your arteries will cause your arteries to narrow and harden (called atherosclerosis). Large deposits of cholesterol can completely block an artery. If an artery that supplies blood to the muscles in your heart becomes blocked, a heart attack can occur. If an artery that supplies blood to your brain becomes blocked, a stroke can occur.

When should I start having my cholesterol level checked?
Men aged 35 and older and women aged 45 and older should have their cholesterol checked yearly. Depending on what your cholesterol level is and what other risk factors for heart disease you have, you may need to have it checked more often.

Are there different types of cholesterol?
Yes. Cholesterol travels through the blood in different types of packages, called lipoproteins. Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) deliver cholesterol to the body. High-density lipoproteins (HDL) remove cholesterol from the bloodstream. Too much LDL cholesterol is bad for the body although a high level of HDL is good. It’s the balance between the types of cholesterol that tells you what your cholesterol level means. For example, if your total cholesterol level is high because of a high LDL level, you may be at higher risk of heart disease or stroke. If your total level is high only because of a high HDL level, you’re probably not at higher risk.

Total cholesterol level
Less than 200 is best. 200 to 239 is borderline high. 240 or more means you’re at increased risk for heart disease.

LDL cholesterol levels
Below 100 is ideal for people who have a higher risk of heart disease. 100 to 129 is near optimal. 130 to 159 is borderline high. 160 or more means you’re at a higher risk for heart disease.

HDL cholesterol levels
Less than 40 means you’re at higher risk for heart disease. 60 or higher greatly reduces your risk of heart disease.

What can I do to improve my cholesterol level?
If you have high cholesterol, it may be necessary for you to make some lifestyle changes. If you smoke, stop smoking. Exercise regularly. If you’re overweight, losing just 5 to 10 pounds can help lower cholesterol levels. Make sure to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish- all of which promote heart health. Avoid saturated and trans fats, which can raise cholesterol levels. Also limit your overall cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams (200 milligrams if you have heart disease) per day.

A programme of exercise and healthy eating is easy with IVERIDGE. We can also advise you on the correct type of exercise and foods you should be getting to help lower cholesterol. Medication such as statins only suppresses cholesterol and should not be seen as a long term measure unless your GP strongly advises it. Call us on 01132 887 666 today for help lowering your cholesterol levels.

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