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If you are currently on statins for your high cholesterol, you can use our online service to conveniently order a further supply of your medicine without the need to see your doctor face to face. All you have to do is fill in a simple qu

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What is high cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a substance known as a lipid that plays a vital role in the functioning of all the cells in the body. While having a high level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), ‘good’ cholesterol, is good for you, a high level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), ‘bad’ cholesterol, can build up in the arteries and increase the risk of heart attack or stroke. 

What causes high cholesterol?

The main causes of high cholesterol are related to lifestyle. Eating a lot of saturated fats increases the level of LDL in your blood, while smoking inhibits the body’s ability to transport cholesterol from fatty deposits to the liver. Having diabetes or high blood pressure (hypertension) also increased the risk of high cholesterol, as does having a family history of stroke or heart attack.

LDL vs HDL cholesterol

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is the substance that carries cholesterol to the cells that need it. Too much LDL in the blood is what is known as high cholesterol, and can build up in the arteries and cause them to become blocked. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is responsible for carrying cholesterol away from cells to the liver where it can be broken down or passed from the body as a waste product. Unlike LDL, a high level of HDL is good for you.

What are the complications of high cholesterol?

If left untreated and uncontrolled, high cholesterol can have serious health complications. These include:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Angina
  • High blood pressure
  • Peripheral vascular disease
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Increased risk of gallstones

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of high cholesterol?

High cholesterol doesn’t usually have symptoms and is therefore diagnosed with a blood test. It is only when high cholesterol has caused serious damage that it may result in a heart attack or stroke. Your doctor may recommend that you regularly have you cholesterol checked if you are overweight, have high blood pressure or smoke, as these all increase the risk of developing high cholesterol.

How is high cholesterol diagnosed?

High cholesterol is usually diagnosed with a blood test. A blood test will be able to report on your total cholesterol, LDL levels, HDL levels and triglyceride levels. For accurate results, you may be asked not to eat or drink anything other than water in the 12 hours preceding your test.

Treatment

How to treat high cholesterol

The first step for lowering your cholesterol is by making some lifestyle changes. However, your doctor may also chose to prescribe medication to help you. Statins are the most commonly prescribed treatment for high cholesterol and work by blocking the the enzyme in the liver which helps produce cholesterol. There are 5 different types of statin available on prescription in the UK. Low-intensity Statins, including Simvastatin, Fluvastatin and Pravastatin, are sufficient for lowering cholesterol in most patients. Atorvastatin and Rosuvastatin are high-intensity statins and are more suitable for patients with very high cholesterol levels.

Ezetimibe is a treatment which blocks the absorption of cholesterol into the blood. While it is less likely to cause side effects than statins, it is thought to be less effective. Alternatively, a doctor may prescribe a low daily dose of aspirin, which can help prevent blood clots forming.   

What is the best treatment for high cholesterol?

The best way to manage high cholesterol is by making changes to your diet and lifestyle. If you require treatment, statins are the most commonly prescribed medication and thought to be the most effective.

How do you lower your cholesterol without medication?

The best way to reduce your cholesterol is to limit your intake of foods which contain saturated fats and trans fats. These include fatty cuts of meat and processed meat products, butter, ghee and lard, cream and ice cream, cheese, cakes and biscuits, chocolate, coconut oil and cream, and palm oil. Foods containing omega-3 fatty acids can have a lowering effect on triglyceride levels, although too much can lead to obesity. Try and include food such as avocados and oily fish in your diet.

How to prevent high cholesterol

High cholesterol can be prevented by leading a healthy lifestyle. Eat a nutritious diet that’s low in saturated fat and high in fibre, and try to maintain a healthy weight. Exercising regularly helps to boost your overall wellbeing. Avoid drinking alcohol excessively and don’t smoke.

Tips for a low cholesterol diet

The UK government recommends that saturated fats should only equate to 11% of a person’s food intake. Women should eat no more than 20g of saturated fat per day, men should eat no more than 30g, and children should eat less. Try to choose lean cuts of meat over fatty ones, and don’t eat too many processed meat products. Cut down on butter, ghee and lard, cream , cheese, cakes and biscuits, chocolate, and avoid using too much coconut oil or palm oil when cooking. Include plenty of fruits and vegetables and wholegrains for a high-fibre diet, as well as omega-3 fatty acids from oily fish and avocados.

Q&A

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a lipid substance which is important for the body to function normally. Cholesterol can be found in a selection of foods but mainly it is produced naturally by the liver. This lipid substance joins with proteins in your body to be transported to cells or back to the liver. When the combination of this fatty wax and the protein occurs; it leads to what is commonly known as either ‘good cholesterol’ or ‘bad cholesterol

What is the connection between high cholesterol and heart disease?

Too much LDL, the ‘bad’ cholesterol, can build up in the arteries. When the arteries become narrowed, blood flow and oxygen supply to the heart is slowed. This can cause chest pain (angina) and, if blood flow to a part of the heart is completely cut off, heart attack.

Does high cholesterol increase your risk of dementia?

Studies have been conducted, with mixed results, that suggest there may be a link between high cholesterol in mid-life and a heightened risk of developing dementia later on. The link remains unproven and further research is needed for conclusive results.

Can vegetarians have high cholesterol?

It is absolutely possible for vegetarians to have high cholesterol. There are plenty of vegetarian foods that are likely to boost your cholesterol, including foods containing saturated fats and trans fats which contain hydrogenated vegetable oils. These include foods like fried foods, cakes and biscuits, creams and cheese.

Are high blood pressure and high cholesterol connected?

High blood pressure and high cholesterol are closely linked. When the arteries become narrowed, the heart has to work harder to pump blood around the body, which causes blood pressure to become raised. Narrower arteries also reduces oxygen supply to the heart, increasing the risk of heart disease and heart attack.

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