What you need to know about the risks

Cholesterol is one of those health indicators we know we need to check, but there never seems to be enough time, or it all seems too complicated.

If you have heart disease (or a family history of it) or other risk factors, such as high blood pressure, obesity or diabetes, you’ll know you need to keep a close eye on your cholesterol levels.

But many people don’t know what their cholesterol levels are, or if they’re outside the recommended healthy range – more importantly many aren’t even aware they have diabetes and the greater risks high cholesterol means to them.

Either way, if you’re interested in taking a closer look at your cholesterol, we’ve outlined a few things you should know.

Do you know your cholesterol levels? Find out why it’s so important to know your cholesterol levels. #cholesterol #diabetes #HbA1c   Click To Tweet

What exactly is cholesterol?

Cholesterol can get a bit of a bad rap, but it’s actually an important building block in our body’s cells, tissues and hormones.

Cholesterol is a fatty substance made in the liver that moves around the body – through the bloodstream – on particles called lipoproteins. The two main types of lipoproteins that carry cholesterol to and from cells are called low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL).

HDL cholesterol is often called ‘good cholesterol’ because of the way it works to keep cholesterol from building up in your arteries. LDL cholesterol is known as the ‘bad cholesterol’ because it can get stuck on the walls of your arteries and cause build-ups and blockages that can lead to heart attack or stroke.

Triglycerides are another form of fat in the blood that can also raise the risk of heart disease. This is because high triglycerides are often associated with lower levels of HDL ‘good’ cholesterol, which is important in removing build-up from the arteries.

Why is it important to check cholesterol levels?

According to the CSIRO, if your cholesterol level is above the recommended healthy level, your risk of heart disease is about four times greater than that of a person with a healthy level. However, not all people with high cholesterol levels get heart disease.

About 54,000 Australians have a heart attack each year, which equates to one heart attack every 10 minutes according to the Heart Foundation. And as many as 33,000 of those are diabetes – related heart attacks.

High blood fats like cholesterol and triglycerides are a major risk factor for heart disease because they can cause your arteries to narrow, slowing blood flow, and can eventually block them completely – leading to a heart attack or stroke.

However, there are often no symptoms of heart disease until it’s too late.  That’s why it’s important to test your cholesterol levels frequently and see your doctor if you have any concerns.

What has blood sugar got to do with cholesterol?

Diabetes is a condition where your body is unable to process blood sugar (also known as blood glucose) effectively, causing your blood sugar levels to be too high.

Having diabetes changes the balance of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterol levels in your blood.

If you have diabetes you tend to have higher levels of both the ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides.

High blood sugar levels cause the ‘bad’ cholesterol to stay in your bloodstream for longer. This means the walls of your arteries tend to damage more easily – putting you at greater risk of having a heart attack or stroke and causing circulation problems in the hands and lower limbs.

According to Diabetes Australia, almost two million Australians have diabetes, but a quarter of them don’t know it yet. They’re living with ‘silent’ undiagnosed type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes Australia CEO Professor Greg Johnson says many people have type 2 diabetes for up to seven years before being diagnosed. During that time, up to half those people will begin to develop a diabetes-related complication.

“The tragedy is that much of the damage to the body that causes diabetes-related complications is preventable.”

 – Professor Greg Johnson, CEO Diabetes Australia

That’s why it’s so important to get yourself checked for diabetes early.

The good news is, once diagnosed, by working with your doctor you can manage both your blood sugar levels and cholesterol at a level that’s right for you – and reduce your risk of diabetes-related complications.

Did you know heart attacks and stroke are up to four times more likely in people with diabetes? #diabetes #cholesterol Click To Tweet

Check your risk of diabetes with an at-home test

Type 2 diabetes can be diagnosed through an HbA1c blood test.

This glycated haemoglobin test measures your average blood sugar levels over the past three months.

Your GP can order the test (and you will need to go to a pathology collection centre), or you can order a fingerprick test online through MyHealthTest and collect your sample at home.

Our service allows you to order online and take the test in the comfort of your own home. And, taking a blood sample via a fingerprick can seem much less intimidating than having a needle inserted into a vein.

You’ll also get your results delivered directly to you via our secure website and you can share them with your GP or other healthcare professional as you choose.

Check your risk of #diabetes with an HbA1c blood test. This test measures your average #bloodsugar levels over the past three months #health Click To Tweet

Things to consider

It’s important to remember that your age, gender, ethnic background and family history can influence your risk of high cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes.

If you’re concerned about your cholesterol levels, diabetes or other risk factors for heart disease, talk to your doctor so they can assess your personal circumstances.

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