Cholesterol tests and who should get them

 

High cholesterol can be difficult to spot without expert diagnosis and yet it is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular disease worldwide. Here at Alphega Pharmacy we are continuing to work hard to make sure the communities we serve are informed and have access to the best advice and care to help people monitor and manage their cholesterol levels.

The first and best way of monitoring your cholesterol levels is to have your blood checked. High cholesterol and high blood pressure related to cholesterol levels usually has no obvious symptoms, so being checked is the only reliable way to know how high your cholesterol levels are. The checks include blood pressure tests and BMI and waist measurements.

Do I need a cholesterol check?

All adults should get a cholesterol check, regardless of their age and overall health. This is because high cholesterol has multiple causes which are not always obvious. Speak to your doctor or local Alphega Pharmacist who can help arrange a cholesterol check for you.

Cholesterol checks are even more important for people who have risk factors, such as:

  • People aged 40 or older

  • People diagnosed with heart disease or related illnesses (e.g. having had a stroke, heart attack or peripheral arterial disease (PAD))

  • People who are smokers, are overweight, have high blood pressure, diabetes or a family history of heart disease

  • Patients already taking cholesterol-lowering medicines

  • People who have a close relative with familial hypercholesterolemia (FH)

Who does not need a cholesterol check?

Pregnant women should not normally get a cholesterol check because tests during pregnancy cannot give an accurate picture of the woman’s normal cholesterol levels. We advise women wait at least three months after giving birth to have a cholesterol test. If you are concerned, speak to your doctor or local Alphega Pharmacist for advice and get peace of mind.

How can I tell if I have high cholesterol?

High cholesterol can be difficult to spot without expert diagnosis.

Even extremely high cholesterol levels caused by genetic conditions can have no symptoms. Symptoms to look out for are:

  • Swollen tendons on the knuckles and Achilles tendon which look like small fatty lumps

  • Raised, pale, yellowish patches around the eyes and eyelids

  • A white arc shape or ring around the edge of the iris of the eye

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Because most cases of high cholesterol don’t have these symptoms, cholesterol checks are needed to diagnose it. You can get cholesterol checks and more information about cholesterol and heart disease at your local Alphega Pharmacy.

Get yourself a cholesterol check soon and together we can reduce your risk of heart disease and future health complications.

I’ve had a test – what do my results mean?

Your doctor or Alphega Pharmacist will be able to give you the full breakdown of your blood fats and explain the different types of cholesterol. The most important parts of your cholesterol levels are your total cholesterol and HDL (high density lipoprotein) levels. The first gives an overall account of the amount of cholesterol in your blood, while it is important to have a healthy ratio of total cholesterol to HDL.

If you are concerned about anything in your results, make sure you talk to your Alphega Pharmacist who can explain further.

Home cholesterol testing

You may have seen a wide variety of home cholesterol testing kits and home sampling kits available online. These kits allow you to measure your cholesterol at home, while sampling kits need to be sent off to a laboratory for testing.

Home testing kits are more prone to errors than tests done by healthcare professionals such as a pharmacist or doctor. For this reason, we always recommend getting a cholesterol check done by your Alphega Pharmacist or doctor.

If high cholesterol runs in your family, a genetic test will help you to understand more. These should only be done through a specialist centre so speak to your local Alphega Pharmacist to learn more about arranging a genetic test.