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).
Managing your high cholesterol
What are the risk factors?
- Lifestyle risk factors – including 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
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
The most common treatment for high cholesterol are medications known as statins, in addition to dietary changes.
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
- 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
- HealthHub. (2019). High Blood Cholesterol. Retrieved on 21 November 2019 from https://www.healthhub.sg/a-z/diseases-and-conditions/52/highbloodcholesterol
- Mayo Clinic. (2019). High cholesterol. Retrieved on 21 November 2019 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/symptoms-causes/syc-20350800
- Patient. (2017). High Cholesterol. Retrieved on 21 November 2019 from https://patient.info/heart-health/high-cholesterol