8.3% of Singaporeans aged 18 to 69 have high cholesterol. Managing your cholesterol levels is key to lowering your risk of cardiovascular diseases.
High cholesterol is a condition where abnormal levels of lipids (fatty compounds) are found in the blood. In normal situations, the body uses cholesterol that is made in the liver to make cell membranes, hormones such as testosterone, estrogen and progesterone and vitamins such as Vitamin D.
When there is an excess of cholesterol in the body, it can be left to accumulate in your arteries and make them clogged. This causes damage to your heart and circulatory system (coronary artery disease) which leads to health issues such as a stroke or heart attack.
High cholesterol is caused by an accumulation of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol from modifiable and non-modifiable risks, namely:
There are two types of cholesterol in the body:
Contrary to what most people think, not all cholesterol is harmful – as ‘bad’ as LDL is, we actually do need a certain amount of LDL in our bodies; and HDL is necessary to remove excess LDL from our bloodstream.
A high level of LDL cholesterol in the blood leads to buildup of cholesterol in the blood vessels (atherosclerosis). This can lead to health issues like cardiovascular risk as a buildup of cholesterol can limit blood flow throughout your body. A complete cut off of blood supply can result in a heart attack.
Total Blood Cholesterol (mmol/L [mg/dL])
< 5.2 (200)
5.2 - 6.1 (200 - 239)
≥ 6.2 (240)
LDL Cholesterol (mmol/L [mg/dL])
< 2.6 (100)
2.6 – 3.3 (100 – 129)
3.4 – 4.0 (130 – 159)
4.1 – 4.8 (160 – 189)
≥ 4.9 (190)
HDL Cholesterol (mmol/L [mg/dL])
< 1.0 (40)
1.0 – 1.5 (40 – 59)
≥ 1.6 (60)
Triglyceride (mmol/L [mg/dL])
< 1.7 (150)
1.7 – 2.2 (150 – 199)
2.3 – 4.4 (200 – 399)
≥ 4.5 (400)
There are often no symptoms of high cholesterol and many patients go undiagnosed for years. For this reason, high cholesterol is touted as a “silent killer”.
When symptoms appear, they are:
The only way to detect high cholesterol is through a blood test. If you’re unsure about whether you have high cholesterol, contact us to schedule a blood test and health screening to detect high cholesterol early.
High cholesterol is diagnosed during a blood test that includes a lipid profile to examine your risk of heart disease, blood pressure readings, and blood sugar (glucose) test to check for diabetes.
Diagnosis may also include checking your BMI (body mass index) and the types of fat present in your blood (triglycerides) to develop a treatment plan that is tailored to you.
For example, if you have been adopting a relatively healthy diet but still display high levels of cholesterol, you may in fact have a preexisting health condition such as diabetes, thyroid conditions (i.e. hypothyroidism) or liver disease that may be affecting your cholesterol levels.
The best way to manage high cholesterol is through:
Some patients might need medication alongside the aforementioned practices.
A good cholesterol management programme should comprise of a trained healthcare team to provide you with the guidance in keeping your overall cholesterol levels within the healthy range.
A person is at high risk of developing coronary artery disease if their total cholesterol level is between 5.2 and 6.1mmol/L.
Lower cholesterol is generally known to be better, but in rare cases having or a very low total cholesterol level or a very low level of LDL has been associated with some health problems.
Studies suggest that coffee consumption is linked to higher cholesterol levels; although it is not the caffeine in coffee that affects cholesterol but the oils in the coffee bean.