It’s estimated that around two thirds of us have high cholesterol, which can increase our risk of heart disease or stroke. Cholesterol is a fatty substance made in the body, which plays an essential role in how every cell in the body functions. But, too much of it can start to affect how well your heart and circulation works, as it can cause the blood vessels to become blocked.
Cholesterol comes in two forms – ‘bad’ low-density lipoprotein (LDL), associated with an increased risk of clogged arteries; and ‘good’ high-density lipoprotein (HDL) associated with a decreased risk. “Total cholesterol” is an overall measure of both the LDL and HDL types of cholesterol found in your blood.
The most common cause of high cholesterol is a diet high in saturated fat. But a family history of high cholesterol can make you more susceptible too.
Cholesterol is known as the ‘silent killer’ because you can’t tell someone’s levels by looking at them – so getting tested and knowing your levels could be the single healthiest thing you ever do, especially if you are in middle age or older.
It is possible to determine whether you have high cholesterol with a simple blood test.
To keep your cholesterol in check, dietary changes can definitely help – increase your intake of healthy omega-3 and 6 fats from oily fish and nuts, and adopt a low glycaemic index (GI) with wholegrains instead of refined carbohydrates (so swap white for brown bread, for instance). Other factors that can have a positive impact include stopping smoking, increasing exercise and reducing alcohol intake.
Your doctor might also advise taking a medicine called a statin, which reduces the production of cholesterol in the liver by blocking an enzyme. There are several different types of statin available, which can suit different people, and regular check-ups are important to work out the best medication for you.
Your NHS prescriptions can be managed by Pharmacy2U online or through the app so you’re on top of your cholesterol and your medicines 24-7.
Dr. Nitin Shori is a GP with the NHS and Pharmacy2U, an online service which provides free, fast and convenient delivery of NHS repeat prescriptions.