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High cholesterol testing kits and cholesterol lowering drugs

- Zocor (simvastatin) reduces your cholesterol level to lower the risk of suffering a heart attack. It is now available without a prescription in the UK.

High Cholesterol

High cholesterol, known medically as hypercholesterolaemia, refers to an excessive level of total cholesterol or LDL (low density lipoprotein) in the blood.

Cholesterol is a fat used by the body. It is essential in the building and maintenance of the body's cells, hormones and is used in the production of energy. Cholesterol can by divided into two main types - HDL (high density lipoprotein) and LDL. The HDL cholesterol is the "good" cholesterol - it can protect against hardening of the arteries. However, too much of the LDL cholesterol can cause hardening of the arteries.

Formally, when doctors measured your cholesterol level, they looked at the total level of cholesterol in your blood. Increasingly these days they are looking at the ratio of the HDL to the total cholesterol levels in order to assess risk.

Looking at total cholesterol levels (which as explained above is a little simplistic), the levels are:

  • < 5 mmol/l - thought to be ideal
  • between 5 and 6.4 - slightly elevated
  • between 6.5 and 7.8 - moderately elevated
  • over 7.8 mmol/l - very elevated

If instead we look at the ratio of HDL cholesterol to the total, it should be greater than 24%.

Cholesterol levels should not be looked at in isolation when assessing the risk of a cardiovascular event. Other risk factors include smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and a family history of heart problems, especially in younger family members (under the age of 65). If you have another of the listed risk factors, it is more important to try to reduce your cholesterol level. If you already have evidence of cardiovascular disease such as angina, a previous heart attack or other related problems, it is likely that your doctor will have prescribed you a cholesterol lowering drug known as a "statin" to keep yourl level below 5 mmol/l.

What can I do to lower my cholesterol levels?

It is known that your diet affects your cholesterol levels. However, the biggest factor is your genetic makeup. There is a condition known as familial hypercholesterolaemia, which is a tendency for family members to have high cholesterol levels.

Nevertheless, a healthy diet can only have beneficial effects on your health in general, especially if you include a regular consumption of oily fish such as herring or salmon. Oily fish contains Omega 3 fish oils, thought to beneficial to the cardiovascular system. There is also evidence that the following foods can lower your cholesterol level as part of a balanced diet:

  • Foods containing soluble fibre. These include citrus fruits, oat bran, beans (yes, baked beans are good for your cholesterol) and other pulses.
  • Food containing plant sterols. Plant sterols have been clinically proven to lower cholesterol as part of healthy diet. Plant sterols are typically added to some margarines, yoghurts and other items, eg the Flora pro.activ range. They can also be taken separately as supplements.

Aerobic exercise taken regularly will also lower total cholesterol levels and increase HDL levels, due to its fat burning effects.

The group of drugs known as statins have been clinically proven to lower cholesterol, and now Zocor (simvastatin) can be purchased without a prescription from pharmacies in the UK.

Other things that you can do to generally reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease include:

  • Stop smoking
  • There is some evidence to suggest that one glass of red wine a day is beneficial. However too much alcohol will have a negative effect overall, causing elevated blood pressure and liver damage.
  • Obese people have an increased risk of a cardiovascular event, especially "apple" shaped people where the fat accumulates around the middle. Try to keep your bodyweight within the appropriate range for your height and build (see charts below).

Ideal weight chart - men

ideal weight chart men.

Ideal weight chart - women

ideal weight chart women

Cholesterol Testing Kit
- Measure your total cholesterol level at home with this kit.

Pasante Healthcare Cholesterol Level Test
A simple cholesterol test that requires just one drop of blood to check ifr your totall cholesterol level is within normal limits. Results within 3 minutes.