Cholesterol Testing

My Cholesterol Testing Procedure

  • I will read Total Cholesterol, HDL Cholesterol, LDL Cholesterol and Triglyceride values from one drop of blood.
  • I will give advice on improving any of the above values without the immediate need for medication.
  • The test will take only a few minutes.

Whilst I appreciate that you can be tested free for cholesterol at your G.P. surgery, you might not always be given a full breakdown of your cholesterol profile, and you would usually have to wait a few days for the result. I offer convenience and a result that you can see for yourself. I use a monitor which is N.H.S. approved and very accurate.

I may also feel it necessary to include a blood glucose test.

What is cholesterol

Cholesterol is a fatty substance known as a lipid which, under normal conditions, is vital for body functioning in several ways. There are 'good' and 'bad' types of cholesterol, and triglycerides, a different type of lipid which circulate in the blood stream. Most of the cholesterol in blood is made in the body from the liver, and the rest is obtained from certain foods.

Types of Cholesterol and their function

Triglycerides - A different type of lipid to cholesterol. It is formed mainly from diet, and is often increased by sugar and alcohol consumption. The body utilizes triglycerides as stored energy, which is used when the body is low on reserves.

Cholesterol is carried throughout the body attached to proteins, hence the term 'lipoprotein'.

The 'bad' types of cholesterol are LDL and VLDL - Low density lipoprotein and very low density lipoprotein. LDL is routinely measured in your cholesterol test, but there is no simple and direct way to measure VLDL cholesterol. However, VLDL cholesterol is usually estimated as part of the triglyceride value. This is because VLDL containes the highest amount of triglyceride.

LDL - Essential for normal cell function and for making hormones such oestrogen and testosterone. This type of lipoprotein carries cholesterol from the liver to cells of the body. However, when LDL levels are in excess of need, they circulate in blood vessels, and adhere to artery walls where they cause disruption and arterial diseases such as atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries), and arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). LDL build up on the lining of arteries and also cause systemic inflammation. If LDL is allowed to build up within the artery walls, the flow of blood to the heart is restricted. This also has a knock of effect of restricting blood to the brain and the rest of the body. LDL also increases the risk of developing blood clots. When clots form due to build up of LDL and blood cells on the artery wall, if it becomes dislodged, it will travel around the body. Blood clots are the cause of a stroke when a blood clot blocks the artery leading to the brain or a blood vessel within the brain.

The 'good' type of cholesterol is known as HDL - High density lipoprotein. HDL carries cholesterol away from the cells and blood stream, returning it to the liver where it becomes broken down or made into bile (which has a function in digesting fats). For the above reasons, higher levels of HDL are desired in relation to LDL.

Why it should be controlled

Having excessively high blood lipids (hyperlipidemia) is known to be detrimental to health. Having high cholesterol levels would not cause any symptoms in itself, but in time, would increase the risk of cardiovascular disease; coronary artery disease which greatly increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke and developing angina.

What are considered healthy levels of cholesterol

Usually, when a cholesterol test is undertaken, a total cholesterol result is given to the patient. However, because of the reasons outlined above, it is important to know the levels each of LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol. The following figures are at present indicative of desirable and considered harmful levels of total cholesterol in the U.K., Canada and most of Europe.
(** please note these figures are subject to review and slight change from time to time).

Total Cholesterol Value
Desirable Below 5.2 mmol/L
Borderline high 5.2 to 6/2 mmol/L
High Above 5.2 mmol/L
LDL Cholesterol Value
Ideal for people who are at high risk of heart disease Below 1.8 mmol/L
Ideal for people at risk of heart disease Below 2.6 mmol/L
Desirable 2.6 to 3.3 mmol/L
Borderline high 3.4 to 4.1 mmol/L
High Above 4.9 mmol/L
HDL Cholesterol Value
Poor Below 1.0 mmol/L men
Below 1.3 mmol/L women
Adequate level 1.0 to 1.3 mmol/L men
1.3 to 1.5 mmol/L women
Very good Above 1.5 mmol/L
Total Triglycerides Value
Desirable Below 1.7 mmol/L
Borderline high 1.7 to 2.2 mmol/L
High 2.3 to 5.6 mmol/L
Very high Above 5.6 mmol/L

Who is at risk

Whilst cholesterol can be controlled with lifestyle and dietary changes, there are certain factors which are beyond control, therefore increasing risk of higher cholesterol. These are:

  • Genetic factors. If you have a father or brother who developed heart disease or a stroke before they were 55, or a mother or sister who developed heart disease or a stroke before they were 65. Also, close family members who have elevated cholesterol levels despite a reasonably healthy lifestyle otherwise known as familial hypercholesterolaemia. ***
  • Being male over 45 years of age.
  • Being female over 55 years of age.
  • An early menopause in women.
  • Increasing age results in increased risk of coronary heart disease, regardless of cholesterol levels. Unfortunately 'normal' degeneration of cells and reduction of elasticity over time increase the risk of developing atheroma. However, it is known that older people are more prone to higher cholesterol levels than younger people.
  • Ethnic groups. It is known that people who's ethnicity originates in Asia, India or the Caribbean, and are now 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants to the U.K. For example, people who live in the UK have an increased risk of higher cholesterol levels and higher blood pressure.

*** Despite seemingly to be very difficult to reduce LDL and total cholesterol levels in familial hypercholesterolaemia without the use of conventional medications, I have successfully and easily reduced cholesterol by dietary changes. Having elevated cholesterol is not necessarily linked to a high fat diet, but may be the result of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, or a deficiency in certain types of fats and oils.

Lifestyle risk factors which can result in higher cholesterol levels

  • Smoking.
  • Lack of physical activity (a sedentary lifestyle).
  • Obesity and overweight
  • An unhealthy diet.
  • Drinking alcohol above the recommended units for men and women, and binge drinking.
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • High triglyceride blood level
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney diseases that affect kidney function
  • Low HDL levels

How to reduce cholesterol levels naturally

  • Give up smoking. A chemical found in cigarettes called acrolein stops HDL from transporting LDL to the liver, leading to atherosclerosis.
  • Build up exercise, try to raise your heart rate for over 5 minutes, five times a week, a light perspiration should occur. Gradually increase duration and intensity of exercise. (note - please see your G.P. before embarking on any strenuous exercise programme, or if you have not exercised before)
  • Lose weight - aim for a BMI of under 25. (excludes athletes, pregnant women and children).
  • Reduce processed foods, salt intake, excess of fatty and fried foods, carbonated drinks (including low calorie). Herbs and spices can replace salt and fats.
  • Always keep your alcohol consumption to an absolute minimum. Not only is alcohol a major irritant to all body systems, but the sugar content encourages weight gain, high blood glucose levels and systemic inflammation - which would aggravate arterial conditions.
  • Hypertension can be controlled by dietary and lifestyle changes
  • High triglyceride blood level - can be reduced by eating less, eating differently (carb/protein/fat ratios and content must be reviewed)
  • Symptoms of diabetes type 2 is often improved by weight loss.
  • Kidney diseases can be helped by medication, reducing processed foods, food additives and alcohol. Review of current medications by your G.P.
  • Increase your HDL levels by moderating your diet - see your nutritionist.