The body needs two major kinds of fats in the bloodstream: cholesterol and triglycerides.
They provide energy, protect the body from cold and help avoid injury. Fats and protein form lipoproteins, which travel throughout the bloodstream. High levels of fats, especially cholesterol, circulating in the blood can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
There are two kinds of cholesterol. One is low-density lipoproteins (LDL). It is known as the "bad" cholesterol because it increases the risk of heart attack. Ideally, it should be less than 2.5mmol/l. The other is high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the "good" cholesterol. It lowers heart attack risk. It should be both above 1mmol/l and more than 25% of your total cholesterol.
Symptoms of high cholesterol
There are no symptoms of high cholesterol unless the condition is severe. In such cases, fat deposits can form in tendons and skin or even cause severe stomach pain due to an enlarged liver or spleen.
Causes of high cholesterol
Some forms of high cholesterol are genetic. Others are a result of diet and lifestyle.
Diagnosing high cholesterol
A blood test is used to measure cholesterol levels. The readings will be more accurate when the patient has not eaten anything for at least 12 hours.
Treating high cholesterol
The best way to get the body's cholesterol to normal levels is to make lifestyle changes:
- Reduce the cholesterol and saturated fat in the diet
- Increase fruit and vegetable servings
- Exercise regularly
- Reach an ideal weight
- Stop smoking
- Drink a small amount of alcohol daily (no more than two drinks)
If these measures do not lower cholesterol, a lipid-lowering drug may be prescribed.