High blood cholesterol increases the Risk of heart disease and Stroke. Add in other Risk factors like diabetes, smoking and High Blood Pressure and the chance of heart damage is even greater.
If you have high blood cholesterol, you’re not alone. According to the National Heart Foundation, just over half of all Australian adults, over six million people, have levels that put their heart health at risk.
Cholesterol is a substance that our bodies make mainly in our liver, and it’s important as it helps our bodies to function. It is also present in certain foods. But when doctors talk about cholesterol and heart disease, they are referring to a different type of cholesterol.
When we eat fat, it can’t dissolve or go anywhere on its own, but is carried around our bodies by special cholesterol molecules called ‘lipoproteins’. LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein) is the ‘bad’ cholesterol that moves fat into our blood vessels. Sticking to artery walls and mixing with other substances to create a build up of fatty plaque (a condition called atherosclerosis), it hardens and narrows the arteries. If a blood clot forms on this plaque and blocks the narrowed artery, it can lead to Heart Attack or a Stroke.
Triglycerides (trigs) are another form of bad cholesterol that helps our body to absorb fat from the food we eat.
On the flip side, there’s the ‘good’ cholesterol. HDL cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein) gets the fat moving – out of the arteries, down to the liver, and out of our systems.
So Trigs take fat to our blood (a bad thing); .LDL takes blood fat to our arteries (a bad thing); HDL takes fat away from our arteries (a good thing).
A cholesterol blood test (aka full lipid profile) measures five types of cholesterol in your blood - HDL, LDL, trigs, the total of all these (total cholesterol), and the ratio between HDL and LDL (Coronary Risk Ratio or CRR). So, you can have High Cholesterol by having high levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) – which is not good. Or you can have High Cholesterol if your HDL (good cholesterol) is high – which is in fact very good for your heart.
While not everyone with High Cholesterol will develop heart disease, total blood cholesterol levels above 5.5 mmol/L indicate an increased risk, while levels above 6.5 mmol/L put you in the extremely high-Risk zone. (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare: 2004).
To start taking care of your cardiovascular health it’s important to get your blood checked and understand your blood cholesterol levels. It’s the starting point and ongoing measure of one of the main risks of Cardiovascular Disease.
True high blood cholesterol is a problem as it increases your Risk of Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke. Add in other Risk factors like diabetes, smoking and High Blood Pressure and the chance of heart damage is even greater.
To work out if your blood cholesterol levels are putting you at Risk of heart disease, your doctor will do a blood test (full lipid profile) and look at the results as well as your bigger health picture, including your age, gender, family history, weight, waist measurement, whether you smoke and if you have High Blood Pressure or diabetes. If your LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol levels are high or if your HDL (‘good’) cholesterol levels are too low, it’s time to take action to reduce your chance of heart disease and Stroke.
Knowing your cholesterol status is the first step in taking care of your heart health so you should begin with a blood test. If your results are within range be sure to have your blood checked annually. If your results are out of range then see your doctor to develop a heart health plan that's right for you.
There’s 2 ways available to have your blood checked.
1. Make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your heart health and ask for a Full Lipid Profile, a cholesterol blood test. Your doctor will contact you with the results if there’s any cause for concern.
2.You can order a Full Lipid Profile on HeartSmart.me. Order and print your Blood Pathology Request and take it to one of over 2000 participating blood pathology collection centres throughout Australia and receive your results in the mail. You can even have a copy sent to your doctor at no extra charge.
Our lifestyle, particularly the food we eat, has the biggest impact on LDL cholesterol levels. Our body makes LDL from saturated fats and trans fats. Saturated fats are present in animal fats and full fat dairy products. trans fats are hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable fats that increase the shelf life and flavour of certain foods like deep fried foods, some "take-aways" and baked goods, such as pies, pastries, cakes, biscuits and buns. So, eating too much saturated and trans fats can cause High Cholesterol.
High LDL cholesterol levels can also run in the family making the body create too much on its own. As a result, some people have high LDL cholesterol levels regardless of how healthy their diet is. Medications are the only way to reduce this type of High Cholesterol.
As High Blood Cholesterol causes no symptoms, a blood test and medical check up is essential for diagnosis, monitoring and management. Knowing your cholesterol status is the first step in taking care of your heart health so you should begin with a blood test. If your results are within range be sure to have your blood checked annually. If your results are out of range then see your doctor to develop a heart health paln that's right for you.
There’s 2 ways available to have your blood checked.
1. Make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your heart health and ask for a Full Lipid Profile, a Cholesterol Blood Test. Your doctor will contact you with the results if there’s any cause for concern.
2.You can order a Cholesterol Blood Pathology Request on HeartSmart.me. Print your Blood Pathology Request and take it to one of over 2000 participating blood pathology collection centres throughout Australia and receive your results in the mail. You can even have a copy sent to your doctor at no extra charge. When you receive your results, use the My Heart Health section of this site to determine your Cardiovascular Risk. If you have any concerns, see your doctor.
Looking at your total blood cholesterol picture, your health, history and overall Risk of heart disease, your doctor will work with you to put together your own personal plan.
The first part of any plan will be lifestyle changes. If you’re overweight, your doctor will probably suggest that you be more active and make healthier food choices. If you’re a smoker, your doctor will tell you that it’s time to quit. If you drink more than 2 glasses of alcohol a day more than 4 days a week, your doctor may just say it’s time to cut back. They may also recommend supplements such as fish oil, Coenzyme Q10, vitamin E and vitamin C, which are all proven to improve cardiovascular health.
Sometimes lifestyle changes alone won’t lower blood cholesterol, and your doctor may prescribe medicines, such as statins to help get the levels down. As cholesterol medication needs to be taken exactly as prescribed, take the time to ask questions and understand how this treatment works.
The good news about high blood cholesterol is that it’s one of the most easily controllable risks for heart disease. Healthy diet, regular physical activity and staying at ideal weight are, for most people, the solution.
To help keep LDL cholesterol levels down and HDL levels high, take care what’s going into your body, especially the saturated fats and trans fats. Cut them down; replace them with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats; and ramp up your intake of soluble fibre, and vegetables. Eat naturally oily fish twice per week or take fish oil supplements 2000 mg daily.
Know your Risk factors, manage them, and follow this quick guide to improved cardiovascular health. Importantly, if you have any concerns about your heart, particularly if you have a family history of heart disease, don’t delay – talk to your doctor.
If you smoke, there has never been a better time to quit. Nicotine replacement patches or prescription medications are effective in reducing the cravings.
Do you know your cholesterol levels? Most people don't. Information is key, so knowing where you stand is the first step in keeping track and maintaining your heart health. You can order a Blood Pathology Request through HeartSmart.me. Results are mailed directly to you and you can track your results using the My Heart Health section of HeartSmart.me.
Supplements are a great way to make sure you're getting your daily requirement of heart healthy nutrients. Supplements such as Omega 3 fish oil, Vitamins C and E and Coenzyme Q10 can be very beneficial to your heart health.
If you have diabetes, follow your doctor’s direction and keep your blood glucose within a healthy range. Even if you don't have diabetes, stick to a low GI (Glycaemic Index) diet. You won’t be hungry and your blood sugar levels will be stable.
Order a HeartSmart.me blood pressure monitor and keep track of your blood pressure weekly. You can record your results in the My Heart Health section of HeartSmart.me. Aim to keep your blood pressure out of the danger zone - below 140/90mmHg. If your blood pressure is consistently high see your doctor.
Get a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day, or at least 2 hours in total per week. Even better, if you can get 4 hours of sweaty activity per week, you'll help lower your Risk of cancer too.
Get your waist measurement to your 'low risk' zone. Men should keep it below 95cm and women should be below 80cm. Aim for a Body Mass Index of less than 25. You can track your progress in the My Heart Health section of HeartSmart.me.
Happiness is good for the heart. Just as negative emotions such as depression, anger, and hostility are risk factors for heart attack and stroke, studies show that happiness seems to protect the heart.