Do you know the effects of having high cholesterol?

As it is National Cholesterol Month, it is important to recognise and understand the risk factors and effects of having high cholesterol. It’s estimated that over half of people in the UK have high cholesterol but only 1 in 4 are aware they have it.

Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is produced naturally in the liver. There are two types; high density and low density lipoproteins. The high density lipoproteins (good cholesterol) helps get rid of the 'bad' cholesterol by delivering it back to the liver so it can be broken down and passed out of the body.

The low density lipoproteins (bad cholesterol) can exist in high levels and build up on the inside of blood vessel walls. This over a period of time leads to narrowing of the arteries which can increase your risk of heart attack or stroke. If you are being screened for high levels of cholesterol, then triglycerides will also be monitored. Triglycerides are a type of fat that is stored in the body's fat cells, and can also contribute to narrowing of artery walls. A diet high in saturated fats and sugar can increase your levels of triglycerides. You can have normal levels of high and low density lipoproteins but still have high levels of triglycerides.

High cholesterol can result from the following:-

# eating too much saturated fat

# low levels of exercise

# carrying to much body fat

# smoking

# diabetes

# increases with age

# familial history of high cholesterol

# kidney or liver disease

# underactive thyroid

# being of South Asian origin

There aren't any typical signs and symptoms of having high cholesterol, which is why it is important to get checked out. The general advice is to try and control it through diet and lifestyle changes, but it may be advised to take medication if levels are very high or cholesterol levels are not falling naturally.

If you fall into the bracket of potentially having high cholesterol, then it is important to see your GP and have some blood tests. Living with high cholesterol increases your risk of heart attack and stroke, and you may not know it until it is too late.