Cholesterol test can be a lifesaver

August 12th, 2008 - 9:22 am ICT by IANS  

Munich, Aug 12 (DPA) A cholesterol test can be a lifesaver because high cholesterol levels along with diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, and being overweight raise the risk of cardiovascular disease, noted the Munich-based German Society for the Treatment of Lipid Disorders (DGFF). In 2006, cardiovascular disease was the cause of nearly half of all deaths in Germany.

All that is needed for a test is a drop of blood, which a physician takes from a vein. Some pharmacies also have testing devices for which the blood usually comes from a finger prick.

A person’s overall cholesterol level is not the only thing that should be measured, however. Speaking on the occasion of Cholesterol Day in Germany, Professor Achim Weizel, the DGFF’s co-founder and first chairman, said that it was important to determine the proportion of both “good” and “bad” cholesterol.

Cholesterol is a component of all body tissue. “Bad” cholesterol, known by the abbreviation LDL, can cause blood vessels to constrict dangerously and therefore lead to heart attacks or strokes. Its level should be as low as possible.

“If you’ve got no other risk factors (for cardiovascular disease), a level of 160 milligrammes (mg) or less per 100 millilitres (ml) of blood is normal,” Weizel said.

“Good” cholesterol or HDL, helps prevent atherosclerosis by removing excess cholesterol from the body. Its level should be at least 45 mg per 100 ml.

“Lifestyle changes” can bring down a high LDL level, Weizel said.

“You should lose weight, exercise more and keep to a Mediterranean-style diet - one that is low in fat and rich in fibre,” he explained. Such a diet included healthy oils like olive oil and two meals of fish per week, he said.

“If that doesn’t help, medications are the only alternative,” Weizel remarked. People requiring medications were usually those whose high cholesterol level was genetic or about one in every 500, he said.

For healthy people with a normal cholesterol level, a test every year or two was sufficient, Weizel said. Others should be tested every three months. Just six to eight weeks of increased exercise could raise a person’s HDL level, he noted.

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