What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that occurs naturally in your body and is found in all your cells. It is especially important for your brain, nerves and skin. Cholesterol is produced by your liver and you can also obtain it from your diet.
Cholesterol is vital for good health and shouldn’t be feared in its normal range. It is absolutely essential to your health and plays a vital role in hormone production, cell health, cell generation and cell function. But having too much cholesterol is a risk-factor in heart disease.
High cholesterol is a risk-factor in heart disease and high blood pressure
Potential problems begin only when the cholesterol level rises to the point is starts forming plaques – or blockages – in different blood vessels of the body. Those blockages can potentially cause a heart attack or stroke (potentially leading to partial paralysis) A common problem of too-high cholesterol is high blood pressure. This condition known as hypertension can affect younger people also.
What are the symptoms of high cholesterol?
High cholesterol itself typically does not have any symptoms which is why it’s important to get tested.
The conditions that arise due to high-cholesterol do, of course, have symptoms and when those symptoms present themselves, the situation can be quite serious. So, prevention through testing is recommended.
What does a cholesterol test look for?
The Cholesterol and Lipids test takes a finger prick of blood and checks the cholesterol levels of your body and a type of bad fat known as “triglycerides”.
The test typically looks at four things: HDL, LDL, C-Reactive Protein (CRP), triglcyerides and total cholesterol.
HDL: good cholesterol
- HDL – High Density Lipoproteins, commonly termed “good cholesterol”.
- HDL makes up about 20-30% of total cholesterol.
- The higher your HDL, the better. Over 60mg/dL is good.
- There are many things that can lower HDL – Type 2 diabetes, not exercising enough, smoking, being overweight.
LDL: bad cholesterol
- LDL – Low Density Lipoproteins, commonly termed “bad cholesterol”.
- LDL makes up 60-70% of your total cholesterol.
- The lower your LDL, the better. Under 100mg/dL is good.
- LDL causes build-up of plaque inside areas, increasing risk of heart disease and stroke. LDL generally rises if you eat a lot of processed foods, in particular, foods containing trans fats.
- LDL is considered the most important for assessing risk of heart disease. (There is also a type of cholesterol called VLDL (Very Low Density Lipoproteins. VLDL makes up about 10-15% of your total cholesterol). This is another undesirable type of cholesterol and the precursor to LDL but it’s not usually tested for.)
High Sensitivity C-Reactive Protein (hs-CRP)
Whenever inflammation occurs somewhere in your body – whether acute or chronic – the affected tissue sends a signal to your liver (via small molecules) to release C-Reactive Protein (CRP) into your bloodstream. CRP is thought to prime the immune system to help with a rapid response against pathogens.
Levels of CRP increase very rapidly in response to trauma, inflammation, and infection and decrease just as rapidly when the condition is resolved. So, CRP levels is widely used to monitor inflammation.
A high level of CRP in the blood is a marker of inflammation. It can be caused by a wide variety of conditions, from infection to cancer. High CRP levels can also indicate that there’s inflammation in the arteries of the heart, which can mean a higher risk of heart attack. However, CRP tests are nonspecific, and CRP levels can be elevated in any inflammatory condition.
It’s important to measure your CRP levels as it detects chronic inflammation and chronic inflammation is a warning sign that something’s wrong in your body. Chronic inflammation is connected with more extreme health conditions, such as arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, atherosclerosis, and cancer to name a few.
Another reason why you should get tested is because chronic inflammation can happen slowly and/or be dismissed as something minor. Months and years can go by without the true underlying cause being identified. All the while, the inflammation can be damaging your health.
Triglycerides: another bad fat
- Triglycerides is not cholesterol but it’s typically measured in a cholesterol test. It’s tracked because rising triglyceride levels increase your risk of developing atherosclerosis (the build-up of fatty plaque on artery walls, causing blockages which increases the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke).
- Triglyceride levels of under 150mg/dL are desirable.
- Total Cholesterol – this is your HDL + LDL + 20% of triglycerides.
- HDL, LDL and triglycerides are the important numbers to track.
- Your total cholesterol reading gives an overall snapshot of your cholesterol status and reflects your risk for heart disease. In general, the higher the level, the higher your risk. Your cholesterol test result is expressed as total cholesterol per decilitre (mg/dL) of blood and is assessed as follows:
- Desirable level: Less than 200 mg/dL
- Borderline high level: 200-239 mg/dL
- High level: 240 mg/dL and above
A high-reading in itself is not necessarily bad. If you have a borderline high level of cholesterol for example but much of it is the good cholesterol – HDL – that’s not a problem. What your doctor is looking out for are high levels of LDL and/or high levels of triglycerides.
If your results come back as borderline high (due to high LDL, triglycerides) or high, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss a plan of treatment.
Order a Cholesterol & CRP Home Test Kit
Order a Cholesterol & CRP Home Test Kit. Get the convenience of home testing with the reassurance of professional clinical analysis. Your results are delivered quickly and securely online.
Our Cholesterol & CRP home blood test kit goes beyond a regular cholesterol test. Our home testing service checks your complete blood fat profile and also tests for low levels of inflammation associated with cardiovascular disease. Completely assess your risk from heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.
This Cholesterol & CRP Test is advised if you:
- are overweight or obese (have a high BMI);
- are, or have been, a smoker;
- don’t do much exercise or lead a sedentary lifestyle;
- drink alcohol regularly or are a binge drinker;
- have an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) ;
- have diabetes, or impaired glucose tolerance;
- have family history of heart disease;
- have immediate family who have had a heart attack, stroke or heart bypass surgery;
- have kidney disease;
- have polycystic ovary syndrome;
- want the convenience of home testing without waiting for a GP appointment;
- need a high quality, clinically accredited test done in a professional clinical laboratory.
What’s included in the test kit?
- Gentle fingerprick blood testing kit
- FREE post & packaging
- Results usually within 24 Hours
- Accredited laboratory testing by clinical professionals
- Personalised report with detailed guidance in your online, secure dashboard
- The same accuracy and quality as your GP or hospital
What is tested?
- Cholesterol. Having a high cholesterol level, associated with a high amount of fats in your blood (hyperlipidaemia) can be detrimental to your health. There is evidence that having high cholesterol increases your risk from cardiovascular diseases and associated death. It’s also important to consider the ratio of ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ cholesterol.
- HDL ‘Good’ Cholesterol. Good Cholesterol (HDL – high-density lipoprotein) benefits your health so higher levels are better. Studies show that Good Cholesterol plays a role removing Bad Cholesterol (LDL) from your arteries. So high levels of Good Cholesterol may protect against heart attack and stroke. Conversely low levels of Good Cholesterol are linked with an increased risk of heart disease.
- High Sensitivity CRP (hs-CRP). C-reactive Protein normally increases in the blood following inflammation and infection. However chronic low levels of inflammation are linked to a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease (heart disease) and complications such as heart attack and strokes. A very high sensitivity (hs-CRP) test is used to ensure that these low levels of inflammation are detected.
- LDL ‘Bad’ Cholesterol. Bad Cholesterol (LDL – low-density lipoprotein) is detrimental to your health. High levels of Bad Cholesterol contribute to fatty build-ups in arteries (atherosclerosis). These plaques narrow arteries and raise the risk for heart attack, stroke and peripheral artery disease.
- Triglycerides. Triglycerides are a form of dietary fat found in meats, dairy produce and cooking oils. Unlike cholesterol, it is not certain whether triglycerides contribute to the risk of cardiovascular disease or whether underlying conditions such as diabetes or obesity are the problem. However, there is evidence to suggest that this is the case so it is generally recommended to keep your blood levels low – especially if you are already at risk of cardiovascular disease.
High-cholesterol prevention tips
Some of the things you can do to lower your bad cholesterol level includes:
- Keeping your weight in check
- Avoiding all trans fats, as well as junk food
- Exercising moderately, at least 25 minutes a day
- Quitting smoking
- Cutting back on alcohol
Typically, this will involve a change of diet, more exercise and maybe medication (statins) to lower your cholesterol.
Note: food advice has changed and continues to change
As stated, one line of treatment that your doctor will pursue is changing your diet. However, it’s important to note that what we use to believe was a good/bad diet has been largely debunked (which is why the classic food pyramid is no longer promoted). For example:
- There is no link between saturated fats and heart disease.
- It’s been proven that healthy fats are good for you and a low-fat diet is harmful.
- Eating fat does not make you fat – sugar and carbs make you fat.
It’s too broad a topic to get into here but if you are interested, check out the keto diet for another popular perspective on what constitutes a healthy diet – eating more healthy fats, dramatically cutting down on carbs and eliminating sugar.