How High Cholesterol is Diagnosed

High cholesterol itself does not cause any symptoms; so many people are unaware that their cholesterol levels are too high. It is therefore of the utmost important to find out what your cholesterol numbers are.

If you are not certain whether you have high cholesterol, a simple test carried out by a clinic or your doctor will soon determine the levels of cholesterol in your bloodstream. Your doctor will diagnose high blood cholesterol by checking the cholesterol levels in your blood by means of a test which is called a lipoprotein panel which is specifically designed to measure the cholesterol levels in your blood.

It is important to fast for between nine to twelve hours prior to having a lipoprotein panel test carried out - this means absolutely no eating or drinking beforehand.

This is what the lipoprotein panel will be able to tell your doctor about your cholesterol levels:

  • Total cholesterol - this is a measure of the entire amount of cholesterol detected in your blood, which includes both HDL and LDL levels.
  • LDL cholesterol, which is the “unhealthy or bad” cholesterol, is the main reason of cholesterol that causes blockages in your arteries.
  • HDL cholesterol which is the “good” cholesterol assists in the removal of the cholesterol build-up in your arteries.
  • Triglycerides are fats that are found in the bloodstream - it is believed that a high level of these in the blood will increase the risk of heart disease, especially in females.

You can have your cholesterol tested at a pharmacy without having a

lipoprotein panel test done; knowing your total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol
will be able to put you in the picture as far as your cholesterol levels are
concerned. Fasting is not required if you are having a total and HDL
cholesterol test.

Reasons for raising your triglyceride levels include being overweight or
obese. If you are sedentary and never exercise this could cause high
cholesterol. Smoking, excessive drinking, a diet high in carbs, genetics all
contribute to high cholesterol.

Optimal cholesterol levels

According to the South African Heart and Stroke Foundation a healthy person’s cholesterol levels should be:

  • Total cholesterol: less than 5.0 mmol/l (millimols per litre)
  • LDL cholesterol: less than 3.0 mmol/l
  • HDL cholesterol: greater than 1.2 mmol/1

Once you have had your cholesterol tested and it is found that your levels are too high, the next step is to determine your risk of developing major heart disease (e.g. a heart attack).

03 September 2020

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