What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is produced by the liver and travels through the bloodstream by combining with proteins to form lipoproteins. ‘Good’ cholesterol is vital for the normal functioning of the body and it is important that the body has a healthy balance of the two types of lipoproteins; low-density (LDL) and high-density (HDL). Cholesterol is also found in certain foods.
High cholesterol levels- what does this mean?
The recommended cholesterol levels in the blood vary between those with higher or lower risk of developing arterial disease (narrowing of the blood vessels around the heart) and a simple blood test can identify whether you have high cholesterol levels. As a general guide, total cholesterol levels should be:
5mmol/L or less for healthy adults
4mmol/L or less for those at high risk
According to the British Heart Foundation, there are several factors that can increase the chances of having high cholesterol levels and these include:
– high alcohol intake
– lack of exercise
– consuming a diet that is high in saturated fat (i.e.
– kidney or liver disease
Evidence suggests that high cholesterol levels can increase the risk of:
– narrowing of the arteries
– heart attack
– transient ischaemic attack (mini stroke)
– peripheral arterial disease
– coronary heart disease
High cholesterol levels- what can I do to reduce it?
The first step in reducing your cholesterol is to maintain a healthy balanced diet. Try to avoid foods with high saturated fat and instead swap these for fruit, vegetables and wholegrains.
Further tips for reducing high cholesterol include regular exercise and giving up smoking. Medication may also be prescribed by your GP if you are considered to be at greater overall risk of cardiovascular disease.
If you are concerned speak to your GP about cholesterol levels and if you are worried that you have high cholesterol. Your GP will be able to advise you on any next steps to take.
In simple terms, blood pressure is the pressure of blood flowing through your arteries and a certain level of pressure is required in order to circulate blood around your body.
The pressure of blood flow changes as your heart beats; with highest pressure at the point when the heart is contracting (systolic) and the lowest whilst the blood re-fills with blood (diastolic). Blood pressure varies during the day and can be measured via a blood pressure monitor (sphygmomanometer). Blood pressure measurements consist of two numbers and as a general guide, ideal blood pressure (unless advised otherwise by a medical professional) is between 90/60 and 120/80. It is advised that all adults over 40 have their blood pressure checked at least every five years.
Contributing factors for high BP
High blood pressure, commonly known as hypertension, is known to affect 1 in 4 adults in the UK and approximately 7 million of those are thought to be unaware of their condition. Factors that can contribute to high blood pressure include:
- Lack of physical activity
- Weight (overweight or obese)
- Too much salt in your diet
- Regularly consuming alcohol
- Family history of blood pressure
Risks of high BP
Persistent high blood pressure can increase your risk of a number of serious conditions, such as:
- Heart disease
- Heart attacks
- Heart failure
- Peripheral arterial disease
- Aortic aneurysms
- Kidney disease
- Vascular dementia
What can I do to reduce my BP?
Typical advice for controlling/lowering blood pressure includes:
- Adopting a health, balance diet and restricting salt intake
- Regular exercise
- Reducing alcohol intake
- Losing weight
- Stopping smoking
Contributing factors for low BP
Low blood pressure, commonly known as hypotension, is typically regarded as having a blood pressure reading under 90/60. Contributing factors for low blood pressure include:
- Time of day- blood pressure fluctuates throughout the day and is typically low overnight whilst you are sleeping.
- Exercise- initially exercise will raise your heart rate but if you exercise regularly it will low when you are resting.
- Temperature- warm temperatures have been known to cause blood pressure to fall.
- Relaxation levels- typically your blood pressure will be lower the more relaxed you are.
- Medication- certain types of medication are known for causing low blood pressure.
- Underlying heart condition
Symptoms of low BP
In cases where individuals have naturally low blood pressure, they will often report that they do not experience any symptoms and no treatment is required. Low blood pressure can however indicate that there is a lack of blood flowing to vital organs in the body which can lead to symptoms such as:
- Blurred vision
Treatment for low BP
Hypotension only needs treatment if it is causing symptoms and often involves general lifestyle advice such as avoiding caffeine at night and limiting your alcohol to avoid becoming dehydrated. Further advice includes:
- Increasing your fluid and salt intake- dehydration can cause low blood pressure.
- Changing medication
- Treating underlying conditions
For further information about high and low blood pressure please click here:
NHF (high blood pressure)- https://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-health/risk-factors/high-blood-pressure
NHS (high blood pressure)- https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/high-blood-pressure-hypertension/
NHS (low blood pressure)- https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/low-blood-pressure-hypotension/