What is a cholesterol test?
Our cholesterol test is a blood test that you can take from the convenience of your own home – we’ll send you a blood collection kit upon request so that you can collect a small sample of blood and send it back to us for testing. Please click the following link to see a video that explains how to collect the blood sample and send it off – you’ll also find a leaflet explaining what to do here. It’s a simple, painless process that takes less than five minutes.
The test measures levels of different types of cholesterol in your blood, along with the triglycerides that are present in order to determine your “lipid profile”. The different substances measured in the test are cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
Cholesterol is a natural substance that every normal healthy person has. It’s an important part of normal cell membranes, and is needed to make other things in the body such as hormones for adrenaline, bile and vitamin D, and sex hormones. It’s a fatty substance known as a lipid which is mainly produced in the liver, however cholesterol can be obtained through certain foods we eat.
Lipoproteins are formed when the blood carrying the cholesterol and proteins are bound together and come in two main groups – high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL). LDL takes cholesterol from within the liver and transports it to the cells within the body. If more cholesterol is produced than the body needs, it can store up within the walls of your arteries and decrease blood flow. This build-up of ‘bad cholesterol’ can potentially cause disease of the arteries.
HDL carries cholesterol from your body cells to the liver, where it is broken down or removed from the body through your waste. This means HDL is known as "good cholesterol" and the higher its levels, the better your health can be.
A triglyceride is a type of fat or lipid found in the blood. It is a compound derived from glycerol and three fatty acids. There are many different triglycerides: depending on the oil source, some are highly unsaturated while others are more saturated. As a blood lipid, it helps enable the transference of fat and blood glucose to and from the liver.
Why should I have a cholesterol test?
Whilst cholesterol is important in the normal healthy body, high levels of cholesterol (hypercholesterolaemia) can be dangerous, as it increases the risk of serious health problems. As a result it’s important to know if you have high cholesterol, so that you can take steps to reduce it.
Research strongly supports the theory that high levels of cholesterol may increase the risk of your arteries narrowing – a condition also known as atherosclerosis – where your arteries become slightly blocked by cholesterol and other fatty substances. These blockages are called atheromas or plaques. It can be serious because these blockages can reduce the flow of blood to vital organs and may stop them from functioning properly. A narrowed artery, depending on its positioning, may cause muscle pain in the legs, erectile dysfunction and heart disease. If the plaque or blockage breaks away from the wall of the artery there can be a total blockage and this can potentially cause a stroke or heart attack.
Atherosclerosis could also be worsened by high blood pressure, smoking, being overweight, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Elevated levels of triglycerides are also associated with atherosclerosis and poor health.
High levels of cholesterol and atherosclerosis can be the cause of erectile dysfunction in men – if you are suffering from erectile dysfunction, it is important to rule out high cholesterol as a serious cause. We recommend that all men showing symptoms of erectile dysfunction have a cholesterol test.
This may be appropriate if you think you may be at risk from high cholesterol because you have certain medical conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke or mini stroke, diabetes or thyroid problems. It may also be wise to have a cholesterol test simply if you are overweight, over 40 or if you have a family history of high cholesterol or cholesterol-related problems.
The blood test is normally taken first thing in the morning to ensure that all food you have eaten has been digested, and will not affect the results of the test.
The results of the test will be sent to the “Test Results” area of your Pharmacy2U Online Doctor account. You will be notified by email when the results are there, and the doctor will also be notified of the results.
Your result will tell you the level of cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood. It will also indicate the normal levels and indicate if your result falls within the normal range.
The accepted normal levels for a healthy adult are as follows:
- Total cholesterol - 5 mmol/L or less
- LDL - 3 mmol/L or less
- HDL - 0.9-1.5 mmol/L
- HDL % 20% and above
Those at high risk of cholesterol-related problems should have lower levels of total cholesterol (4 mmol/L or less) and LDL (2 mmol/L or less). If your cholesterol levels are higher than normal, you may be at risk.
If we do find abnormal levels, the doctor will get in touch with you to recommend the appropriate course of action.
Please note: These tests cannot be sent overseas, only to UK residential addresses.