Understanding your Number

A Cholesterol Test

doctor and patient smallCholesterol plays a major role in a person’s heart health. High blood cholesterol is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease and stroke. That’s why it’s important for all people to know their cholesterol levels. They should also learn about the other risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

There are no obvious symptoms for high cholesterol. If you are concerned you maybe at risk of having high cholesterol as a result of a poor diet, being overweight or from genetics – it is advisable to book an appointment with your doctor. Cholesterol tests are also available in a number of pharmacies, who will take a drop of blood from your finger tip for an instant reading.

Doctors advise for anybody over the age of 25 to have their cholesterol tested every five years.

You should only do a cholesterol blood test after a 9–12 hour fast without food, liquids or pills. It gives information about total cholesterol –  LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

What is a healthy cholesterol level?

Your cholesterol level is measured in units called millimoles per litre of blood, often shortened to mmol/L.

The HSE recommends that healthy adults should have a total cholesterol level below 5 mmol/L.  In Ireland, two out of three adults have a total cholesterol level of 5 mmol/L or above, and the average cholesterol level is about 5.7 mmol/L, which can be a risk factor in the development of heart disease.

The higher your bad cholesterol, the higher your risk of cardiovascular disease

However, it’s important to remember that as well as your cholesterol level, other factors such as smoking and high blood pressure are risk factors for the development of heart disease.

The total cholesterol level includes LDL (bad cholesterol) and HDL (good cholesterol). The risk of heart disease is particularly high if you have a high level of LDL cholesterol and a low level of HDL cholesterol.