Why should I check my cholesterol?
High cholesterol is the leading cause of heart attacks and strokes, and is the largest silent killer in the UK. Evidence strongly indicates that high cholesterol can increase your risk of:
- narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis)
- heart attack
- transient ischaemic attack (TIA) – often known as a “mini stroke”
- peripheral arterial disease (PAD)
This is because cholesterol can build up in the artery wall, restricting the blood flow to your heart, brain and the rest of your body. It also increases the risk of a blood clot developing somewhere in your body.
Your risk of developing coronary heart disease also rises as your blood’s cholesterol level increases. This can cause pain in your chest or arm during stress or physical activity (angina).
Many factors can increase your chances of having heart problems or a stroke if you have high cholesterol.
- an unhealthy diet – in particular, eating high levels of saturated fat
- smoking – a chemical found in cigarettes called acrolein stops HDL (see the good and the bad) transporting cholesterol from fatty deposits to the liver, leading to narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis)
- having diabetes or high blood pressure (hypertension)
- having a family history of stroke or heart disease
There’s also an inherited condition called familial hypercholesterolaemia, which can cause high cholesterol even in someone who eats healthily