How's your cholesterol? If you haven't had a test in the last 5 years, it may be time to book an appointment with your GP. The NHS recommends that everyone between 40 and 74 years old should be screened for high cholesterol once every 5 years as part of a cardiovascular health risk assessment. A nurse or GP in your local surgery can use a 'risk factor calculator', which takes into account a number of factors, including your family history, age, sex, whether or not you are a smoker or have diabetes and blood pressure, as well as your cholesterol levels.
All adults, no matter their age, should ask for a risk assessment if there is a history of early heart disease or stroke in their family. This means if your father or a brother developed one of these conditions before reaching 55 years old, or in the case of your mother or a sister, before reaching 65 years old. If you have a parent, sibling or child with one of the rare hereditary lipid disorders such as familial hypercholesterolaemia or familial combined hyperlipidaemia your whole family should be under regular assessment by your GP or hospital cardiologist.
Reducing your cholesterol to a safer level could be easier than you think. In fact, with simple lifestyle modifications - and, if necessary, medication - people often see significant reductions in cholesterol within 6 weeks.
Here are 10 tips on how to cut high cholesterol:
1. Set a target.
You know you've got to get your cholesterol numbers down, but how low do you need to go? That depends on several factors, including your personal and family history of heart disease, as well as whether you have cardiovascular risk factors, such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking.
Low density lipoprotein, or LDL, is commonly known as 'bad' cholesterol. High density lipoprotein, or HDL, is often referred to as 'good' cholesterol. 'Total cholesterol' is a measure of LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and other cholesterol components.
If you don’t already have cardiovascular disease the aim is to lower your total cholesterol level to less than 5.0mmol/l and LDL cholesterol to under 3mmol/l.
If you already have cardiovascular disease, your aim is to get your total cholesterol down to less than 4.0mmol/l and LDL cholesterol to under 2.0mmol/l.
2. Consider medication.
Lifestyle modifications make sense for anyone with elevated cholesterol. However, if your cardiovascular risk is high, your doctor may suggest cholesterol-lowering medication.
3. Get moving.
In addition to lowering LDL 'bad' cholesterol, regular physical activity can raise HDL 'good' cholesterol by up to 10%. The benefits come even with moderate exercise, such as brisk walking.
Whatever form your exercise takes, the key is to do it regularly. The NHS recommends doing at least 150 minutes of exercise a week, on as many days of the week as possible.