This is a guest article by Heather Worthington.

Most of us are aware that we need to have regular medical checkups often involving blood and urine tests but not all understand why. Here we shall look at the reasons to undertake a cholesterol test, a simple blood test which can help in you in assessing your risk for heart disease, stroke and other diseases.

Often a cholesterol is part of a routine medical at your GP and may be carried out by the practice nurse. You can even buy kits and do the test at home yourself. A sample of blood will be taken from you and sent to a pathology laboratory for analysis. To achieve the most accurate results, you should fast for 9-12 hours before having your blood taken so people often find it is most convenient to do this first thing in the morning. The lab will send the test results back to your GP.

Cholesterol TestYour cholesterol reading is the sum of your LDL, HDL and other lipoproteins like triglycerides. Cholesterol is measured in milligrams per decilitre (mg/dL). If your total cholesterol is less than 200 mg/dL, your heart attack risk is considered relatively low, (unless there are other risk factors for example a family history of heart disease or if you have type 2 diabetes).

Even with a low risk, it’s still a good idea to eat foods low in saturated fat and take plenty of physical exercise. In general, people who have a total cholesterol levels of 240 mg/dL have twice the risk of heart attack as people who have a cholesterol level of 200 mg/dL. When there is an excess of LDL or “bad” cholesterol in your blood, it can build up in the walls of your arteries. Over time, a build up of LDL cholesterol causes a condition called atherosclerosis, which is a hardening of the arteries. These arteries become narrowed and blood flow to the heart is restricted. The blood carries oxygen to the heart, and if enough oxygenated blood doesn’t reach your heart it becomes weakened. You may suffer chest pain. When the blood supply to a portion of the heart is completely cut off by a blockage, then a heart attack results. Similarly, decreased blood flow to your brain can cause a stroke.

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