This site uses cookies to store information on your computer. I'm fine with this Cookie information

High Blood Lipids (Fats)

What are blood lipids?

What is cholesterol?

What are triglycerides?

Why are high blood lipids a risk factor for Coronary Heart Disease?

How are blood lipids measured?

What can I do to help lower my blood lipids?

What are blood lipids?

"Blood Lipids" is the term used for all the fatty substances found in the blood, including cholesterol and triglycerides.  Some people have too much cholesterol (fat) in their blood and this increases their chances of having a heart attack.

back to top

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fatty substance which is mainly made in the body when the liver breaks down saturated fats in food.  This cholesterol then passes into the blood.  

Cholesterol travels in the bloodstream in two forms:

  • 'Low Density Lipoprotiens' (LDLs) - this is often called 'bad cholesterol' as it helps to deliver cholesterol to the body through the bloodstream.  
  • 'High Density Lipoproteins' (HDLs) - this is often called 'good cholesterol' as it helps to take bad cholesterol out of the bloodstream from parts of the body.

back to top

What are triglycerides?

Triglycerides are another type of fat found in the blood which mainly come from food. After you eat, fats in your food are broken down in the liver into triglycerides.  The liver can also convert excess calories (e.g. from drinking too much alcohol, sugar drinks, or eating too much fatty foods or meat) into triglycerides. These fatty triglycerides are released into your blood and are then transported through your body and used as energy or stored as fat. 

back to top

Why are blood lipids a risk factor for Coronary Heart Disease?

Having high levels of fat in you blood can lead to fatty deposits in the blood vessels in the body, including the coronary arteries (the blood vessels which supply the heart muscle with blood).  This leads to the narrowing or hardening of the coronary arteries.  There is more information in the 'what is coronary heart disease (CHD)' section.

The goal is therefore to aim to have: 

  • low levels of total fat in your blood
  • low levels of LDL cholesterol
  • high levels of HDL cholesterol
  • low levels of triglycerides

back to top

How are blood lipids measured?

Blood lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides) are measured by a simple blood test.  Your nurse or Doctor will take a sample of your blood.  If you are having your triglyceride levels measured, you will be asked not to eat anything, and to drink only clear water,  for about 12 hours before your blood is taken.

Blood lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides) are measured in units called millimols per litre of blood, usually shortened to 'mmol/l'.   Your target is to have:

  • a total cholesterol level under 5mmol/l
  • an LDL level under 3mol/l
  • a HDL level above 1mmol/l
  • a triglyceride level under 2mmol/l

This may all seem quite confusing - but don't worry. If you have had a heart attack or if you have angina, your GP or Practice Nurse should check your blood lipid level every year.  If  your  total cholesterol is over 5mmol/l then you should be on cholesterol-lowering medication - usually a statin (e.g. Simvastatin, Atrovastatin) if you have angina or have had a heart attack.  If you are not on these medicines, ask your doctor or nurse about them. 

back to top

What can I do to help to lower my blood lipids?

There are many things that you can do to help lower the levels of fat in your blood:  

  • try to eat less fatty foods, especially foods with lots of saturated fat
  • if you are overweight then losing a bit of weight can help lower your cholesterol.  Try to loose at least a half to one lb (0.5kg) a week.  This might not seem much but over a few weeks it will mount up. 
  • try to be a bit more active  - this will also help you to lose weight
  • take the correct medicines  e.g. cholesterol lowering drugs (if your doctor thinks you need them). 

The Living with heart disease section provides more information on healthy eating, physical activity .  You could also ask your GP or Practice Nurse for more advice. 

back to top