Your blood cholesterol level can be measured from a blood sample, which can be arranged by your doctor. You may need to fast before giving the sample.
According to the National Heart Foundation, an ideal profile is:
- Total cholesterol less than 4 mmol/L
- LDL cholesterol less than 2.5 mmol/L
- HDL cholesterol greater than 1 mmol/L
- Total cholesterol/HDL ratio less than 4.5
- Triglycerides less than 1.7 mmol/L
Millions of people are at risk of developing coronary Heart disease in USA, with an estimated 4.8 million people having high blood cholesterol levels. It is the commonest form of Heart disease, characterised by ‘hardening of the arteries’ due to a build-up of fatty deposits in the blood vessels. This can cause complete or partial blockage of these blood vessels, which can deprive the heart of oxygen, resulting in a possible heart attack or stroke.
This condition known as atherosclerosis progresses more quickly among people with a High Blood cholesterol level, particularly if they smoke and have high blood pressure or diabetes. Stress, a lack of exercise and being overweight are further risk factors.
High Blood cholesterol levels are accepted as a main underlying cause of coronary Heart disease. Cholesterol is transported around the body in protein ‘carriers’ known as lipoproteins. The bad carrier is known as LDL (low density lipoprotein), which carries the cholesterol from the liver to the cells, and the helpful carrier is HDL (high density lipoprotein), which returns the cholesterol to the liver for breakdown and excretion from the body. Generally, HDL levels should be high and LDL levels should be low for optimal heart health.
The key to a heart healthy diet is not only eating less total fat, but also choosing less saturated fat and including more of the unsaturated fats into the diet. The following advice will show you how to do just that.
These results are not interpreted on their own - any other heart risk factors will be assessed by your doctor as well. If your cholesterol level is high you should have regular check-ups every three to six months, depending on the results and your doctor’s advice.
Revision date: June 22, 2011
Last revised: by Janet A. Staessen, MD, PhD