Welcome to Healthy Dudley. This is the new public health website.

Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a fatty substance known as a lipid and is vital for the normal functioning of the body. It’s mainly made by the liver, but can also be found in some foods.

Having an excessively high level of lipids in your blood (hyperlipidaemia) can have an effect on your health.

High cholesterol itself does not usually cause any symptoms, but it increases your risk of serious health conditions.

Why should I check my cholesterol?

High cholesterol is the leading cause of heart attacks and strokes, and is the largest silent killer in the UK. Evidence strongly indicates that high cholesterol can increase your risk of:

  • narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis)
  • heart attack
  • stroke
  • transient ischaemic attack (TIA) – often known as a “mini stroke”
  • peripheral arterial disease (PAD)

This is because cholesterol can build up in the artery wall, restricting the blood flow to your heart, brain and the rest of your body. It also increases the risk of a blood clot developing somewhere in your body.

Your risk of developing coronary heart disease also rises as your blood’s cholesterol level increases. This can cause pain in your chest or arm during stress or physical activity (angina).

Many factors can increase your chances of having heart problems or a stroke if you have high cholesterol.

These include:

  • an unhealthy diet – in particular, eating high levels of saturated fat
  • smoking – a chemical found in cigarettes called acrolein stops HDL (see the good and the bad) transporting cholesterol from fatty deposits to the liver, leading to narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis)
  • having diabetes or high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • having a family history of stroke or heart disease

There’s also an inherited condition called familial hypercholesterolaemia, which can cause high cholesterol even in someone who eats healthily

The good and the bad

 

There are several different types of cholesterol, one is good and the others are bad. The good cholesterol is called high density lipoprotein or HDL. The bad cholesterol is all the other types, referred to as non-HDL.

 

Watch this short video for more information.

When should my cholesterol levels be checked?

If you are aged 40-74 and eligible for a NHS Health Check you will have your cholesterol measured during your health check. Your GP practice will invite you for your health check, so make sure you take up the invitation. If you have a condition that means you aren’t eligible for a NHS Health Check, you will probably already have had your cholesterol checked. Your GP or practice nurse will advise you of your result. Remember high cholesterol is treatable.

In addition to your GP some pharmacies and optical practices in Dudley can also offer a NHS Health Check.

If you are under 40 and think that high cholesterol may run in the family (known as familial hyperlipidaemia) you should see your GP or practice nurse urgently to be tested.

Some signs that high cholesterol may run in your family are:

  • Father/brother developing heart disease, heart attack or stroke before the age of 55
  • Mother/sister developing heart disease, heart attack or stroke before the age of 65
  • Swellings on your knuckles, knees or your Achilles tendon at the back of your ankle
  • Small lumps near the inner corner of your eye. They are usually pale yellow in colour
  • A pale white ring around your iris (the coloured part of your eye). If you’re under 50 years old it’s a strong sign that you have high cholesterol

Your GP may also recommend that you have your blood cholesterol levels tested if you:

  • have been diagnosed with coronary heart disease, stroke or mini stroke (TIA), or peripheral arterial disease (PAD)
  • have a family history of early cardiovascular disease
  • have a close family member who has a cholesterol-related condition
  • are overweight
  • have high blood pressure, diabetes, or a health condition that can increase cholesterol levels

How can I lower my cholesterol level?

  • Maintain a healthy, balanced diet. Swap food containing saturated fat for fruit, vegetables and wholegrain cereals. This will also help prevent high cholesterol returning.
  • Other lifestyle changes, such as taking regular exercise and if you smoke, giving up smoking can also make a big difference in helping to lower your cholesterol.

If these measures don’t reduce your cholesterol and you continue to have a high risk of developing heart disease, your GP may prescribe a cholesterol-lowering medication, such as statins.

Your GP will take into account the risk of any side effects from statins, and the benefit of lowering your cholesterol must outweigh any risks.