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National Cholesterol Month

Heart UK are using National Cholesterol Month, this October, to raise awareness of the impact of high cholesterol on our health.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is found in some foods but about 80% of our cholesterol is made by the liver.  It is a fatty substance which is important for our body to work well. It has three main functions:

  • It is part of the outer layer of all cells.
  • It is used to make vitamin D and steroid hormones which are important for healthy bones, teeth and muscles.
  • It is used to make bile which is important in digesting fats.

Cholesterol travels around the body in your blood and is taken to where it is needed. Some returns to the liver and is broken down to help make bile acid which helps digest fats in the intestine. Some bile acid is excreted as waste in faeces but a lot goes back into the blood stream, returns to the liver and used again in digestion.

How do you get high cholesterol?

There are three main reasons your blood cholesterol might become high:

  • If you have a diet high in saturated fat.
  • If you have low activity levels - so the fat isn’t used as energy.
  • If you have a genetic condition which means you don’t process fats normally.

Too much cholesterol in the blood is bad for our health. The excess cholesterol can be deposited in the walls of your arteries causing them to harden and over time cause them to become narrower. This means your heart needs to work harder to pump blood around your body and over time may become weaker. You may also develop blood clots where the arteries narrow causing them to become blocked. Or these clots may break off and cause a blockage in another area of the body leading to heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular disease.

How do I know if I have high cholesterol?

You will not normally experience any symptoms so the only way to find out if you have high cholesterol is to get a test.

You can find out if you are eligible for an NHS Health Check, part of which involves a blood cholesterol test, by registering with Live Well Stay Well.

How can I reduce cholesterol in my blood?

Some people need to take medication to lower their cholesterol. Adopting a healthy lifestyle is also important in lowering cholesterol. Eating less foods which are high in saturated fat, doing more exercise, stopping smoking and managing your weight are all ways to help lower your cholesterol. 


Information in this article obtained from Heart UK and British Dietetic Association. Use these links to find out more.