Just to warn you, this blog post is pretty dull, but I wanted to share this information as it wasn’t that easy to find on the internet.
The most important thing you should know is that you can get a free cholesterol test through the NHS if you’re over 40 or are at high risk of having high cholesterol (for example if you have a family history of early cardiovascular disease). If you’re not sure if you’re eligible, check with your doctor or health professional.
The cholesterol test is usually done in GP surgeries or local pharmacies, but is sometimes offered at other places like mobile units or leisure centres. If you’re registered with your local GP they’ll send you a letter inviting you to have a health check every 5 years as soon as you reach 40.
If you’re not eligible for the free NHS test, these pharmacies offer cholesterol tests at a cost:-
I’ve had my cholesterol tested twice at Lloyds Pharmacy as part of their Cholesterol And Heart Check Service. It cost £15, but was definitely worth it in my opinion, as it was so thorough and I got the results back straight away.
You can also buy home-testing kits, but they’re generally not considered to be as accurate as cholesterol tests done by health professionals.
What does it involve?
A blood sample is taken, using a needle and syringe or by pricking your finger. It is then tested to determine the amount of cholesterol in your blood. The blood sample for the Lloyds pharmacy test was taken by pricking my finger, and didn’t hurt at all.
What do the results mean?
Once the test is complete, you will be told your ‘Total Cholesterol’ level, and you may also be told your HDL (‘good’ cholesterol) and LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol) levels.
These tables show the UK guideline levels:-
The figures shown above are based on mmol/l. This online tool can be used to convert mmol/l values to mg/dl.
What to do if your cholesterol is high.
If you fall into any of the ‘High’ or ‘Borderline-high’ ranges, your doctor or health professional will discuss an immediate plan of action to reduce your cholesterol, especially if you are over 40 years old, smoke or have high blood pressure.
If you have high LDL (bad) cholesterol and want to avoid taking statins, eating more of these foods can help to reduce your cholesterol naturally:-
- Rolled oats
- Ground flaxseeds
- Other seeds
- Beans or chickpeas
- Soya products
- Plant sterols or stanols
I managed to reduce my Total Cholesterol from 6.2 to 4.4 mmol/l in 6 weeks just by adding more of these foods to my daily diet and reducing my consumption of saturated fats
If you want to increase your good cholesterol (HDL), eating more of these foods can help:-
- Olive oil
- Brown rice
For more information on raising your HDL levels, see this blog post.
How often should you get tested?
HEART UK recommends you get your cholesterol tested:-
- Every 5 years if you are between 40 and 75.
- Every 12 months if you are on cholesterol lowering medication.
- Any child of a parent with inherited high cholesterol (FH) – by the age of 10.
- First degree relatives of a person with FH – on being told of the risk.
I’m in my thirties, but plan to get mine tested every 6-12 months to make sure that it is still in the desirable range, and hopefully I can continue to keep my cholesterol low through diet alone and avoid taking statins in the future.