Preventive Health Checkup

What is High Cholesterol?

Last updated on September 26th, 2022 at 11:20 am

Having high cholesterol can increase your risk of heart and circulatory diseases such as heart attack, stroke and vascular dementia.

Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in your blood. It’s produced naturally in the liver. Everyone has cholesterol. We need it to stay healthy because every cell in our body uses it. Some of this cholesterol comes from the food we eat. High cholesterol is when you have too much cholesterol in your blood. This can increase your risk of heart and circulatory diseases such as heart attack and stroke. 

What are the types of cholesterol?

There are two main types of cholesterol, one good and the other bad. Having too much bad cholesterol can cause problems with your health. Cholesterol is carried in your blood by proteins. When cholesterol and proteins combine, they’re called lipoproteins. 

  • High-Density Lipoproteins or HDL, is called good cholesterol. This is because it gets rid of the bad cholesterol from your blood. It takes cholesterol that you don’t need back to the liver. The liver breaks it down so it can be passed out of your body.
  • Low-Density Lipoproteins or LDL, is called bad cholesterol. This is because when there is too much of it, it can build up inside the walls of the blood vessels. This clogs them up, causing narrowing of the arteries, which increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. 

You may have also heard bad cholesterol is called Non-high-density lipoproteins. This form of cholesterol we measure now for bad cholesterol, but we now know that other forms of non-HDL cholesterol are also harmful. 

  • Triglycerides – Our blood also contains a type of fat called triglycerides. This is stored in the body’s fat cells. Being very overweight, eating a lot of fatty and sugary foods or drinking too much alcohol can make you more likely to have a high triglyceride level. Triglycerides can also contribute to the narrowing of the artery walls, increasing your risk. You may see triglycerides test values in your lipid profile results.

You can have a normal level of HDL and LDL cholesterol but still have a high triglyceride level.

Why is high cholesterol bad for you? 

LDL, take cholesterol from the liver to the cells around your body. Too much bad cholesterol (non-HDL) can be harmful because it sticks to the inside walls of your arteries. This can lead to fatty material (atheroma) building up. This process is known as atherosclerosis. It makes it harder for blood to flow through, which can lead to a heart attack or a stroke. 

If your total cholesterol is high, it can mean that you have a lot of bad (LDL) cholesterol in your blood. A high level of good (HDL) cholesterol can help keep that bad cholesterol in check and remove it from your body.

What should my cholesterol level be?

There is no specific target cholesterol level because your doctor is looking at your overall risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases.

What causes high cholesterol?

If you have high blood cholesterol, making lifestyle changes is a great first step to lower your risk of heart disease.

  • Look at your lifestyle

You can make lifestyle changes to improve your cholesterol numbers.

Your body naturally produces all the LDL (bad) cholesterol it needs. An unhealthy lifestyle makes your body produce more LDL cholesterol than it needs. This causes high LDL cholesterol for most people.

Behaviours that can negatively affect your cholesterol levels include:

  1. Unhealthy diet
  2. Lack of physical activity
  3. Smoking or exposure to tobacco smoke
  4. Being overweight
  • Heredity can play a role

Some people inherit genes from their mother, father or even grandparents that cause them to have too much cholesterol. This is called familial hypercholesterolemia. The severity of familial hypercholesterolemia is related to the duration and degree of LDL cholesterol in the blood. Familial hypercholesterolemia is dangerous because it can cause premature atherosclerotic heart disease.

If you have a family history of familial hypercholesterolemia or problems related to high cholesterol, get your cholesterol levels checked frequently.

High cholesterol symptoms

There aren’t usually any typical signs you have high cholesterol, which is why it’s so important to get it checked out. It’s a hidden risk factor, which means it happens without us knowing until it’s too late.

A blood test is the only way to know if your cholesterol is too high. This means having a total blood cholesterol level above 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). Ask a doctor to give you a cholesterol test after you turn 20. Then get your cholesterol rechecked every 4 to 6 years.

A doctor may also suggest you have your cholesterol checked more frequently if you have a family history of high cholesterol. They might also suggest it if you show the following risk factors:

What does having high cholesterol mean for my health?

Your risk of heart and circulatory disease is increased if you have high cholesterol and other risk factors, such as:

  • smoking
  • high blood pressure
  • being physically inactive
  • being overweight
  • having diabetes
  • family history of premature coronary heart disease (before 55 for men and before 65 for women)
  • being of South Asian origin

The more risk factors you have, the higher your risk of developing a heart or circulatory diseases such as a heart attack, stroke or vascular dementia.

How can I lower my cholesterol levels? 

Find the ways about living a healthy lifestyle and simple swaps you can make to help reduce your cholesterol.

How is high cholesterol measured?

Blood cholesterol levels are measured using a simple blood test. Your lab technician will take a blood sample, usually by pricking your finger or from an arm vein.

Your blood is then checked for levels of good (HDL) cholesterol, bad (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as getting a total cholesterol result

Cholesterol and triglycerides are measured in units called millimoles per litre of blood, usually shortened to ‘mmol/Litre’ or ‘mmol/L’. For a healthy heart, the aim is to have a low LDL level and a higher HDL level.

If you have been told you have a high cholesterol level, you have too much bad cholesterol in your bloodstream, which increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. But a high level of good (HDL) cholesterol can help keep that bad (LDL) cholesterol in check.

High cholesterol blood test
What is considered high cholesterol?

Normal if they are less than 150. Borderline high if they are 150-199. High if they are 200-499. Very high if they are 500 or higher.

What are the worst foods for high cholesterol?

1) processed or deli-style meats (such as ham, bacon and salami)
2) deep fried fast foods
3) processed foods (such as biscuits and pastries)
4) takeaway foods (such as hamburgers and pizza)
5) fat on meat and skin on chicken
6) ghee, lard and copra
7) coconut oil

What causes high cholesterol in women?

Drinking a lot of alcohol and eating foods containing simple carbohydrates (sugary and starchy foods), saturated fats and trans fats contribute to high triglycerides. High levels may also be caused by health conditions such as diabetes, an underactive thyroid, obesity, polycystic ovary syndrome or kidney disease.


If you have high blood cholesterol, making lifestyle changes is a great first step to lower your risk of heart disease. If those steps don’t reduce your risk enough, your doctor may prescribe medications to help.

Making even modest changes now can help to prevent significant medical issues later. Do all you can to reduce your risk for the serious effects of heart attack and stroke. Do check your cholesterol level or lipid profile test regularly. 

You may also interest in reading: Why healthcare nt sickcare Lab?


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