Think About Your Heart for National Cholesterol Month

National Cholesterol MonthAs a long-term provider of high-cholesterol statin treatments such as Lipitor and Pravastatin, Medical Specialists® Pharmacy will be once again proudly supporting National Cholesterol Month.

The month-long campaign is ran each October by the charity HEART UK to boost awareness about cholesterol, the serious health implications of having high cholesterol, and as a means to raise funds for their life-saving work.

What is cholesterol?

Within all of our body’s cells in contained a fatty, waxy substance called cholesterol that can clog the arteries and cause them to narrow. Also known as a ‘lipid’, the body needs a certain amount of cholesterol in order to produce hormones, vitamin D, and substances to aid food digestion. The liver primarily generates cholesterol, but it can also be found in some of the food we eat.

Cholesterol is transmitted through blood small packages called lipoproteins. The two main lipoproteins are:

  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) – HDL carries cholesterol away from the cells and back to the liver, where it’s either broken down or passed out of the body as a waste product. For this reason, HDL is referred to as ‘good cholesterol’ and higher levels are better.
  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) – LDL carries cholesterol to the cells that need it. If there’s too much cholesterol for the cells to use, it can build up in the artery walls, leading to disease of the arteries. For this reason, LDL is known as ‘bad cholesterol’.

What causes high cholesterol?

High levels of LDL cholesterol itself doesn’t typically cause any symptoms, but this will raise the risk of suffering potentially life-threatening health conditions.

Dangerous high levels of bad cholesterol that is left untreated may cause a heart attack, heart disease, stroke, narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis), transient ischaemic attack (known as a ‘mini-stroke’) and peripheral arterial disease.

These risks are due to the fact cholesterol accumulates within the artery wall, reducing blood flow to the heart, brain and other areas of the body. In addition, the risk of a blood clot is also increased with high cholesterol.

Numerous factors can play a part in a person having high cholesterol. Some factors may be poor lifestyle choices, whilst others could be connected to certain underlying conditions, whilst there is also a risk if there has been a family history of high cholesterol problems.

Lifestyle choices that can cause high cholesterol include a lack of physical activity, drinking too much alcohol, a diet high in saturated fat and smoking. People with diabetes or high blood pressure are commonly known to have high cholesterol too.

One of the single most important reasons that HEART UK run National Cholesterol Month is to make people aware about a potentially deadly condition many are not aware of: Familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH).

FH is passed on by one or both of your parents, causing abnormally high levels of cholesterol. Those with FH have high cholesterol from the point of birth. Usually, people’s cholesterol rises in accordance with age. When people reach between 50 and 70 years of age is usually when high cholesterol becomes serious enough to develop into more serious problems.

Although some never show symptoms, the common signs of FH can include lumps and bumps around the knuckles or Achilles tendon (due to cholesterol deposits), yellow cholesterol build-up around the eyes and eyelids, or a pale ring surrounding the iris.

If a doctors’ check-up reveals high cholesterol, the doctor could decide to refer the patient to a specialist for an assessment if there is a chance of FH, which could include gene tests. The specialist will look to see if other family members need to be assessed and statin medication will likely be required, as lifestyle alterations alone will not suffice in reducing bad cholesterol for those with FH.

Treating high cholesterol

It is important to adopt a healthy diet that is low in saturated fat and engage in regular exercise to maintain a healthy weight. This can reduce cholesterol levels, or even prevent cholesterol levels being too high to start with. Less ‘bad’ cholesterol will mean a lesser risk of stroke, heart disease, or a heart attack.

Statin medication available today from Medical Specialists®, such as Atorvastatin, Pravastatin or Rosuvastatin, work to lower the LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol and raise the HDL (‘good’) cholesterol. Statins may be prescribed to certain people with risk factors for heart conditions, such as those with high cholesterol or high blood pressure, older patients, smokers, or those with family history of early heart disease. Between eight and ten million Britons take statins, making them the most widely prescribed drugs across the UK.

Get involved with National Cholesterol Month

HEART UK are providing expert, independent advice on statins and other cholesterol treatments, in addition to campaigning for improved detection of those at risk of high cholesterol and offering training for health professionals.

The HEART UK website states: “For further information on how you or your company could make a difference this October – or for a free Great Cholesterol Challenge fundraising pack, please email fundraising.  We are aiming to raise £50,000 from this year’s campaign and the money you raise will go towards running our vital life-saving services such as our Cholesterol Helpline.  See how we use the money you raise and the impact this makes on our work.

“We receive no government funding and in order to keep The Cholesterol Helpline and our other services running, we rely on the generosity of people like you.  You can help!  Get involved with National Cholesterol Month, enter The Great Cholesterol Challenge and help us reach our target of £50,000.”

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