Health and lifestyle FAQs

View our short videos specifically designed to answer all your questions about how your health and lifestyle affect your heart health.

What is high cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fatty substance produced by your liver, which is found in your blood. Cholesterol is needed to help build healthy cells. Low levels of cholesterol are considered healthy and normal.

Cholesterol is split into two broad types:

High-density lipoproteins (HDL) – known as ‘good’ cholesterol – help remove ‘bad’ cholesterol by taking it back to the liver to be filtered and removed from the body.

Non-high-density lipoproteins (non-HDL or LDL) – known as ‘bad’ cholesterol – stay in the body and help build up fatty deposits.

High levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol mean too much cholesterol is in the blood. This can lead to severe complications with the heart as fatty deposits develop in your blood vessels, causing blockages.

Risks

Usually, there are no symptoms of having high cholesterol. Symptoms don’t typically appear until fatty deposits build up, blocking blood flow and causing severe health complications.

Some severe health complications caused by high cholesterol include heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and gallstones.

We recommend you get your cholesterol levels tested if you are overweight, over 40 years old and have never had a test, or if high cholesterol or heart problems run in your family. This ensures you can lower your risk of sudden health complications if your cholesterol levels are elevated.

Learn more about the risks of high cholesterol in our videos, ‘what are the dangers of high cholesterol?’ and ‘I have high cholesterol, is it dangerous?’

Causes

Your lifestyle plays a large part in whether your cholesterol is high or not, particularly your diet. Consuming high levels of alcohol and foods with saturated fats, such as fatty cuts of meat or cheese, will increase your cholesterol to high levels.

Smoking can reduce HDL cholesterol, making ‘bad’ cholesterol stickier in your blood vessels and damaging their walls. Whatever your symptoms, we recommend quitting smoking if you can.

Being inactive can also increase your ‘bad’ cholesterol levels and decrease your ‘good’ cholesterol levels.

Some other factors that may make you susceptible to high cholesterol include:

  • Your age
  • Your sex (men are more likely to have higher cholesterol than women)
  • Your ethnic background
  • Menopause
  • Your family history/genetic conditions – If you have a family history of heart attacks or stroke, particularly if these occurred at a young age, this could indicate you may be genetically predisposed to raised cholesterol levels.
  • Stress
  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Medical conditions that can cause high cholesterol include:

  • Gout
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Kidney or liver problems
  • Growth hormone deficiency (GHD)

Diagnosis

High cholesterol can be diagnosed by testing your blood. This is done via a blood test or a finger prick.

A blood test involves a blood sample, usually taken from your arm, sent to a lab for testing to measure your cholesterol levels. The sample is usually taken as a fasting sample to give the most accurate results.

If there is a strong family history of premature heart attacks or strokes, we may also perform an advanced cholesterol test. This can identify small particles of LDL, which may not be identified in a standard cholesterol test. This test also highlights your cardiac risk.

A finger prick test involves pricking your finger to draw blood, which is placed on paper. The test paper is then processed in a machine that can check your levels in a few minutes. This test can also detect early signs of heart disease or diabetes. 

Treatment

Making key lifestyle changes is the primary way to reduce your cholesterol levels. Making sure you eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, exercise regularly, and reduce alcohol and smoking can make significant differences in lowering your levels. Read more about how to keep your heart healthy in our blog: How to keep your heart healthy.

You can also check out our leading Consultant Cardiologist, Dr Syed Ahsan’s tips for managing cholesterol.

If your cholesterol is still high after making fundamental lifestyle changes, your GP or medical practitioner may recommend taking medication to lower your levels.

Medication can also be prescribed to help control high cholesterol. Statins are usually recommended to help lower cholesterol. They block a crucial substance in the liver necessary for its production, which allows the liver to break down existing cholesterol in the body and lower levels of non-HDL. You will most likely be on statins for the rest of your life if you take this medication.

Book an appointment

If you are worried about your cholesterol levels or have high levels that may affect your heart, whether you have a pre-existing condition or not, take action today.

Book an appointment with our skilled cardiologist to better understand your health and set your mind at ease with expert guidance on your next steps.

What our patients say

After suffering from a heart condition for a number of years I was very happy to meet Dr Ahsan, from the first consultation where he believed there was a solution I have now completed the surgery and had my final consultation with him today…

I am very grateful to have Dr Syed Ahsan as my consultant. Dr Ahsan always greets you warmly on each visit despite his busy workload. Dr Ahsan explains everything clearly and helps you to understand even the most complex medical terms…

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