Cholesterol is one of the health topics that pops up in the media on a regular basis, but despite this, statistics show that at least half of us aren’t taking the necessary steps to have healthy levels. This is a shame, not just because cholesterol is an important factor in heart health, but also because getting a cholesterol test and lowering your levels is so simple. To help out, we’ve put together some key info on cholesterol testing below to help you on your way to knowing your number.
So, why should we be interested in knowing our cholesterol levels? What even is it?
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance produced in the liver and used in a range of bodily functions. We all need a little cholesterol going round our system, but due to dietary and other factors, levels can become raised. Elevated cholesterol is one of the risk factors for heart disease*, so it’s important to know your cholesterol level and if needed, do something about it. There are lots of different lifestyle changes you can make, but understanding your levels is the important first step.
Who then should be getting a cholesterol test? The NHS recommends everyone over 40 should have a cholesterol check, in addition to anyone with a strong family history of heart problems or those already diagnosed with heart issues. That said, a 2008 study by the British Heart foundation found that 74% of men and 56% of women aged 35-44 had high cholesterol. If in any doubt about your levels, speak to a healthcare professional who will be able to advise.
What does a cholesterol test actually involve? There are a few different ways to do it. Sometimes a small vial of blood is taken from one of your veins and sent off to the lab for analysis. The results generally take 2-3 days to come back.
There is also now an on-the-spot cholesterol test which is much quicker, but provides less detailed results. This involves a small finger prick and a clever machine. It can give you a reading in minutes, which is helpful, as your doctor or nurse can then discuss any lifestyle changes required then and there.
Although it can sometimes seem like a scary topic, checking your cholesterol is in fact pretty straight forward. Once you know your numbers you can take appropriate action. Access the variety of health information online, always checking for quality, and make sure to get professional support. If your cholesterol levels are raised there are lots of relatively easy things you can do about it, so don’t hesitate to find out your levels. When it comes to cholesterol, knowledge really is power.
*Pro tip: There are multiple risk factors for heart disease, and you may have to tackle more than one of them to reduce the overall risk of it.