Diabetes / 28 Nov, 2019

Managing your high cholesterol

Dr Goh Lit Ching

High cholesterol refers to excessive levels of fatty substances in the bloodstream. High cholesterol increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and peripheral artery disease (narrowing of the blood vessels of the limbs).

What are the risk factors?

  • Lifestyle risk factorsincluding smoking, lack of physical activity, obesity, unhealthy diet and excessive consumption of alcohol.
  • Pre-existing medical conditions – such as high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes and kidney diseases that affect kidney function.
  • A strong family history of high cholesterol
  • Early menopause in women
  • Age

Diagnosing high cholesterol

High cholesterol has no symptoms, so regular checkups at the doctor are very important. A blood test is the only way to detect high cholesterol.

What are the important components when testing cholesterol?

  • LDL Cholesterol – This is referred to as ‘bad’ cholesterol and is involved in forming blockages in the arteries
  • HDL Cholesterol – This is referred to as ‘good’ cholesterol
  • Triglycerides – These are the main form of fat stored in the body. Any food that isn’t used for energy immediately – such as carbohydrates, fat or protein – is also converted into triglycerides.

Know your targets for each type of cholesterol

The below table outlines how cholesterol and triglyceride levels are classified, and can assist you in seeing where your cholesterol level sits.1

Total Blood Cholesterol (mmol/L [mg/dL])
< 5.2 (200) Desirable
5.2 – 6.1 (200 – 239) Borderline High
≥ 6.2 (240) High
LDL Cholesterol (mmol/L [mg/dL])
< 2.6 (100) Optimal
2.6 – 3.3 (100 – 129) Desirable
3.4 – 4.0 (130 – 159) Borderline high
4.1 – 4.8 (160 – 189) High
≥ 4.9 (190) Very High
HDL Cholesterol (mmol/L [mg/dL])
< 1.0 (40) Low
1.0 – 1.5 (40 – 59) Desirable
≥ 1.6 (60) High
Triglyceride (mmol/L [mg/dL])
< 1.7 (150) Optimal
1.7 – 2.2 (150 – 199) Desirable
2.3 – 4.4 (200 – 399) High
≥ 4.5 (400) Very high

Go for regular check-ups

When high cholesterol is suspected and following diagnosis, it is important to maintain regular consultation with your doctor to ensure the condition is being effectively managed.2

Treatment

The most common treatment for high cholesterol are medications known as statins, in addition to dietary changes.

Prevention

The best way to prevent high cholesterol is through healthy lifestyle changes and regular screening. This should include:

  • Eating a diet that includes many fruits, vegetables and whole grains
  • Limiting the amount of fats intake and eat in moderation
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Quitting smoking
  • Exercising on most days of the week for at least 30 minutes
  • Cutting down on alcohol intake

References

For a full list of references, click here.
  1. SingHealth. (2018). High Blood Cholesterol and Hyperlipidaemia. Retrieved on 21 November 2019 from https://www.singhealth.com.sg/patient-care/conditions-treatments/high-blood-cholesterol-hyperlipidaemia
  2. HealthHub. (2019). High Blood Cholesterol. Retrieved on 21 November 2019 from https://www.healthhub.sg/a-z/diseases-and-conditions/52/highbloodcholesterol
  3. Mayo Clinic. (2019). High cholesterol. Retrieved on 21 November 2019 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/symptoms-causes/syc-20350800
  4. Patient. (2017). High Cholesterol. Retrieved on 21 November 2019 from https://patient.info/heart-health/high-cholesterol
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