What is hypercholesterolaemia?
Your body produces its own cholesterol – a waxy, fat-like substance. It’s needed to make certain hormones and to build cell membranes, and also produces compounds that help with fat digestion.
There are two types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) – also known as “bad” cholesterol – and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) – also known as “good” cholesterol. LDL can build up in the arteries, but HDL helps break down the “bad” cholesterol and transports it back to the liver.
A diet high in fatty foods, or an inherited tendency towards hypercholesterolaemia, can lead to a build-up of LDL cholesterol in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. This is called atherosclerosis.
These clumps can harden and narrow the arteries, restricting blood flow to the heart and the brain, and leading to an increase in blood pressure. When blood cells form clots on these cholesterol deposits, and small fragments break loose, arteries to the brain and heart can become completely blocked, and this could possibly lead to a heart attack or stroke.
People at risk of hypercholesterolaemia include the overweight or obese, smokers, inactive people, people with high blood pressure, those with diabetes and people with a family history of the disease.
A blood test is used to check the cholesterol levels in your blood, and your doctor will advise you as to whether your levels are too high for your age, or your state of health.
Treatment for hypercholesterolaemia usually entails lifestyle changes, which could include weight loss, getting more exercise, cutting down on fat intake and quitting smoking. If levels remain high, or were dangerous to begin with, a doctor will prescribe cholesterol-lowering medication.
(Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is to provide general background information and not to substitute any medical diagnosis or advice received from a qualified healthcare professional.)