Cholesterol myths and misunderstandings

Checking in on our health is so important. So many of the common conditions which go on to be serious and debilitating, if caught early, are easily managed through diet or lifestyle changes. And being aware of the different risks at every age can help you know what to be on the lookout for. 

Common menopause myths private blood tests

You’ve probably heard of cholesterol. Discussion about it usually goes hand in hand with concerns about your levels and the impact these have on your health.

But what actually is cholesterol? What role does it play in the body and what are some of the common misconceptions about cholesterol which might trip us up when trying to optimise our health? Let’s take a look.

Firstly, what is cholesterol and why is it important?

Cholesterol is a type of blood fat which is produced in the liver. It’s also found in some types of food, too.

Every cell in the body contains cholesterol, and it plays a vital role in keeping your body working, particularly your brain, nerves, and skin.

Cholesterol has three main jobs:

  • Forming the outer layer of all your cells
  • Making bile, which helps to digest the fats you eat
  • Making vitamin D which keeps your bones, teeth, and muscles healthy

While we need cholesterol in our bodies, too much of it can cause problems, clogging up arteries and leading to health problems such as heart disease. We know that too much cholesterol isn’t good, but there’s often plenty about it we don’t understand or tend to assume.

Let’s take a look at some of the common myths about cholesterol

“All cholesterol is bad for you”

Some forms of cholesterol are essential for good health. Your body needs it to perform important jobs, such as making hormones and building cells. Cholesterol travels through the blood on proteins called lipoproteins.

Two types of lipoproteins carry cholesterol throughout the body, and this is where the confusion tends to come in. 

  • LDL (low-density lipoprotein) (“bad”cholesterol) This makes up most of your body’s cholesterol. High levels raise your risk for heart disease and stroke.
  • HDL (high-density lipoprotein) (“good”cholesterol) This carries cholesterol back to the liver, which then flushes it from the body. High levels can lower your risk for heart disease and stroke.

When your body has too much LDL cholesterol, it can build up in the walls of your blood vessels, restricting and eventually blocking blood flow to and from your heart and other organs.

“It’s obvious when you have high cholesterol”

Generally, high cholesterol has no signs or symptoms. You may not know you have unhealthy cholesterol levels until it is too late, and you have a heart attack or stroke. That’s why it’s so important to get your cholesterol levels checked at least every 5 years.

“You can’t alter your cholesterol levels”

You might think that you can’t do much to change your cholesterol without medication, but that’s not the case. There is plenty you can do to take control of your cholesterol levels, including:

  • Be active every day. It’s recommended that adults get 150 to 300 minutes of moderate physical activity each week.
  • Make healthy food choices. Choose foods naturally high in fibre and unsaturated fats.
  • Don’t smoke or use tobacco products. Smoking damages your blood vessels, speeds up the hardening of the arteries, and greatly increases your risk for heart disease.
  • Know your family history. If your parents or other immediate family members have high cholesterol, you should be tested more often.
  • Get tested at least every 5 years (unless told otherwise by your doctor).

“I don’t need statins or other medicines for my cholesterol.”

Although many people can achieve good cholesterol levels by making healthy food choices and getting enough physical activity, some people may also need medicines called statins to lower their cholesterol levels.

People who may need statins or other medicines to manage cholesterol levels include the following:

  • People with cardiovascular disease. People with CVD may already have narrowed arteries because of too much plaque. Medicines that lower cholesterol may help reduce the risk for heart attack or stroke.

  • People with familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) or people with very high levels of “bad” cholesterol. FH is a genetic condition that causes very high LDL cholesterol levels. If left untreated, cholesterol levels will continue to get worse. This greatly raises the risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

  • People with diabetes. Type 2 diabetes lowers HDL cholesterol levels and raises LDL cholesterol levels, increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke.


Understanding your cholesterol levels 

With GP waiting times increasing in many practices, and appointments for non-urgent care more difficult to access, private blood testing is becoming a common alternative for many people looking to take control of their health.

Our Lipid profile test gives a total cholesterol level, as well as quantities of LDL and HDL cholesterol (The good and the bad). It will also give a triglyceride level and calculate the ratio between HDL and Total which is a good marker of cardiac risk.

"With GP waiting times increasing in many practices, and appointments for non-urgent care more difficult to access, private blood testing is becoming a common alternative for many people looking to take control of their health.”

A simple and convenient private blood test

We partner with Spire Healthcare to offer a professional phlebotomy service. This guarantees that your blood samples are taken and handled correctly and that your results are processed efficiently by clinical professionals. Our confidential blood tests are available at over thirty private clinics around the UK.

At your appointment, the friendly team will talk to you about your test, collect your blood sample and send it off for testing at an accredited partner laboratory. All you need to do is arrive for your appointment. We’ll take care of the test, and the rest.


Clear, accurate results

The time it takes to receive your results will depend on the type of test you have chosen. When they are ready, your results will be sent directly to you, via email, within the time specified. If you would prefer to receive a paper copy of your results through the post, that can be arranged for you.

You can also choose the option of reported or unreported results. Reported results include information and comment from our GP which you may find helpful to discuss with your own consultant, or for your records.

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