High cholesterol

It is estimated that there is 7.68 million Australians who are over the age of 25 years and have elevated cholesterol levels.

Managing cholesterol

Cholesterol, also called a lipid, is a fatty substance, that's produced by the liver. It's also found in foods high in saturated fat, like fatty meats, egg yolks, shell-fish, and whole-milk dairy products. It is carried around the body in the bloodstream.

The body needs some cholesterol to make hormones, to help the metabolism and for making cells; it is when there is too much cholesterol in the blood that it can cause problems, such as increasing the risk of heart disease.

While it is a vital part of the structure and functioning of our cells, high levels of cholesterol in your blood may lead to the slow build up of plaque in the arteries, which becomes a serious disease called atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis is one of the major underlying causes of coronary heart disease.

A closer look

So how can something your body needs be harmful? Well, not all cholesterol is considered bad.

There are three main components doctors evaluate when you have a blood test to check your cholesterol levels.

They look at LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, and another substance called triglycerides.

Having the right levels of each type is healthy.

But, the fact is cholesterol can be harmful to your health when there’s too much of it in your blood.

Having high cholesterol, or not, may depend on your lifestyle. Eating a lot of fats and not getting enough exercise can cause cholesterol levels to rise. Cholesterol is also naturally occurring within the body and elevated cholesterol levels, in part, can be a result of your genetic makeup. 

How can high cholesterol be treated?

How you manage high cholesterol will depend on your medical history and your health.

Your doctor will look at the results of your cholesterol test, also known as a fasting lipid profile and, using this information along with your medical history, establish a target level for you.

In some cases, lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet and regular exercise may be enough to bring your cholesterol to target levels.

If you need more help to reach your targets, medication may be prescribed for you.

Additional information:

National Heart Foundation of Australia

Dietitians Association of Australia

iCanQuit – NSW

Quit – VIC

Australian Government – The National Tobacco Campaign