Many people know that high cholesterol poses health risks. However, only a few know what different blood lipid values indicate, when and how often you should have them checked, and how high values can be reduced again. On this year’s Cholesterol Day, experts from the German Society for Disorders of Lipid Metabolism and Their Complications (DGFF/Lipid-Liga) provided information during the phone campaign to readers. Here are the most important questions and answers:
At what age and how often should you have your blood lipid levels checked?
Teacher. Dr. Peter Grützmacher
As soon as possible because high blood lipid levels can be inherited. If these are found in the parents, their children’s blood lipid levels should also be measured. The sooner you discover a lipid metabolism disorder and treat it with a healthy lifestyle or medication, the better it is for the blood vessels. Adults aged 18 to 35 are entitled to a one-time medical examination with determination of blood lipid levels, from the age of 35 every three years during the “Check-up 35”. But it would be better to have them measured earlier.
Why are high blood lipid levels especially dangerous in people with diabetes mellitus or high blood pressure?
Teacher. Dr Ulrich Julius: Diabetes and the associated increase in blood sugar lead to long-term physical changes that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. These include atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries with narrowing of blood vessels – the structure of the heart muscle changes and the blood flow properties worsen. If the blood pressure is too high all the time, the heart has to do too much pumping work and the deposits – called plaques – can then build up even more easily. These are made up, among other things, of cholesterol. If LDL cholesterol levels are also increased, the risk of plaque formation and therefore atherosclerosis increases. This can lead to blockage of blood vessels and lead, for example, to a heart attack or stroke.
Question: What do different blood lipid levels say about my health?
doctor Brigitte Uh: In a healthy person with no risk factors for cardiovascular disease, LDL cholesterol in the blood should be below 116 mg/dl (or 3 mmol/l). Triglyceride levels up to 150 mg/dl (or 1.7 mmol/l) are considered “normal”. For everyone, this question cannot be answered in general. Doctors always determine a person’s overall risk profile. Guidelines from European specialist societies provide guidance when evaluating measured blood lipid values and deciding to what level they should be reduced if necessary.
Question: Do LDL cholesterol limits change with age?
Teacher. Dr. Reinhard Klingel: We are all born with very low levels of LDL cholesterol, but levels increase with age. It is important to always look at LDL cholesterol taking into account the individual risk profile for cardiovascular disease.
Question: How to prevent hypercholesterolemia?
Doctor Fatima Goudjil: Basically, a healthy lifestyle is the foundation of prevention and any therapy. Unfortunately, this is still underestimated, but the successes of some patients show what is possible through lifestyle changes. This includes a Mediterranean diet with fruits, vegetables, olive oil, nuts, more fish but less meat and fiber. Other basic elements of prevention are permanent cessation of smoking and physical activity. You should aim for thirty minutes three times a week – better yet, a total of 150 minutes. Pick an activity you enjoy – that way you’ll stay on the ball better.
Question: How can I lower my high LDL cholesterol?
Teacher. Dr. Volker Schettler: A healthy diet with lots of plant-based foods such as vegetables, salads, legumes, whole grains and fruits as well as lots of omega-3 fatty acids from oily sea fish and vegetable fats such than olive and flaxseed oil, but little fat from meat, cold cuts and cheese, little sugar and white flour the most important action. LDL cholesterol can also be reduced by active physical exercise such as endurance sports and weight loss if you are overweight.
Question: When are the drugs needed?
Teacher. Dr. Volker Schettler: In people with severe disorders of lipid metabolism, if there are already deposits in the blood vessels, a heart attack or stroke has already occurred, drugs are needed in any case.