What’s all the fuss about cholesterol?

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CHOLESTEROL IS a lipid (fat chemical) that is produced by the liver from the fatty foods that we eat.

The level of cholesterol in your blood is an important factor in determining your risk of developing heart disease or suffering a stroke.

Cholesterol is carried in the blood as part of particles called lipoproteins.

Low-density lipoproteins carrying cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) is often referred to as bad cholesterol as this is involved in forming atheroma (see below) which is the main underlying cause of various cardiovascular diseases.

High-density lipoproteins carrying cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) is often referred to as good cholesterol as HDL may prevent atheroma forming.

Atheroma are like small fatty lumps that develop within the inside lining of arteries (blood vessels). Atheroma is also known as atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries.

Over time, patches of atheroma can become larger and thicker thus making an artery narrower. This in turn reduces the blood flow through the artery. This narrowing of the arteries is the cause of angina.

Should a blood clot (thrombosis) form over a patch of atheroma it can completely block the blood flow causing a heart attack, stroke or other serious problems.

Ignorance is not bliss!

Because untreated high cholesterol levels can have such disastrous consequences, it is important that all adults should be aware of their cholesterol level. This is determined by a very simple blood test of which the results are known in 24 hours.

Should cholesterol levels be high the patient will usually be advised about diet and lifestyle changes, then cholesterol re-checked in about three months time. If cholesterol levels remain high the patient may be commenced on medication to reduce it.

Do not wait for a serious life threatening condition to manifest and reveal the fact that you have high cholesterol. Early diagnosis and management can without doubt save your life.

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