Cholesterol is vital for normal and healthy bodily function however elevated levels of certain types of cholesterol, particularly LDL-cholesterol, is associated with atherosclerosis or narrowing of the arteries within the body. This process can lead to increased risk of angina, myocardial infarction (heart attack) or stroke.
Investigation of cholesterol is by a simple fasting blood test. If elevated, a detailed assessment of your overall 10-year cardiovascular risk and family history are essential to guide management. Certain patients may benefit from further investigation including specialist blood tests, such as LP(a) and apoB, advanced imaging such as carotid ultrasound, coronary calcium scoring or cardiac CT scanning.
Treatment of other cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes are essential. Initial treatment of hyperlipidaemia in low risk individuals may be with simple lifestyle measures including dietary modification, regular aerobic exercise and overall risk factor reduction such as stopping smoking. This is usually followed by re-assessment of lipid profile.
Certain individuals deemed to be high risk will require medical treatment to lower cholesterol with drugs such as statins. Treatment options and doses vary depending on the reason for therapy. If you require statins for prevention of cardiovascular disease, often the lowest required dose is used in order to effectively treat cholesterol levels whilst minimising side effects. High dose statins may required if you have suffered a myocardial infarction irrespective of cholesterol levels.