October 2016 marks the beginning of National Cholesterol Month. This is the time for people up and down the UK to help one another by spreading the facts about the importance of heart health and the dangers of cholesterol. This year, the main focus of National Cholesterol Month will be on the Great Cholesterol Challenge.


What is Cholesterol?

We’ve all heard of cholesterol but do you actually know what it is and what causes it? Cholesterol is a waxy substance, similar to body fat, which is found in all of our cells. A common misconception is that cholesterol is inherently bad for you and must be completely eradicated. In fact, our bodies rely on a certain level of cholesterol in order to produce vital vitamins and hormones. It travels via vessels in the bloodstream, in packages of fat called lipoproteins.

Lipoprotein is essential but certain lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, smoking or drinking can lead to an unhealthy amount of cholesterol in the body. High density lipoprotein (HDL) is sometimes referred to as ‘good cholesterol’, as this is the form of cholesterol that is necessary for a healthy, functioning liver. Low density lipoprotein (LDL) is known as ‘bad cholesterol’.

A high amount of LDL can cause cholesterol to build up in the arteries, causing them to become blocked or narrowed which eventually restricts the flow of blood to the heart, brain and other vital organs. This can lead to serious cardiovascular issues including heart attacks, strokes, coronary heart disease and peripheral arterial disease.


Treatment and Prevention

The most effective way to battle high cholesterol is to prevent it from ever occurring by making healthy heart choices. If you are diagnosed with high LDL levels, the first course of action usually suggested by your GP is to make changes to your health and lifestyle choices.

Some of the ways you can make healthy choices for your heart include cutting down on cholesterol-inducing foods such as dairy, red meat, alcohol and shellfish, stopping smoking and increasing the amount of exercise you take. More information on how to treat or prevent high LDL levels can be found on the NHS LiveWell page.

Doctors may also prescribe statins for patients with high cholesterol. Statins are a group of drugs including atorvastatin and simvastatin which stop LDL levels rising too high by blocking the enzymes which produce cholesterol. In addition to this, statins absorb excess LDL which may already be in the body.


National Cholesterol Month

This year, people and organisations across the country will dedicate the entire month of October to raising awareness about the dangers of high cholesterol. Events and campaigns will be taking place to help spread potentially life-saving information and raise funds for the healthy heart cause.

The focus of National Cholesterol Month 2016 will be The Great Cholesterol Challenge. This challenge is all about taking care of your heart, lowering your cholesterol and taking steps towards becoming as healthy as possible. You don’t need to be suffering from high LDL levels to get behind the campaign. Absolutely anyone can get involved as it’s all about ‘moving more and eating better’ – something we can all benefit from and a crucial part of self-care.

Get in touch with HEART UK or your local health organisation to find out about the activities and events that will be on offer as part of The Great Cholesterol Challenge this October. All of these exciting activities will help to reduce the amount of unhealthy LDL cholesterol in your body. If you’re looking for another way to support National Cholesterol Month, contact Heart UK today and find out how you can arrange a fundraising event at your place of work or in your local community.