Cholesterol Advice From GP Dr Sarah Jarvis


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A recent survey by Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK recently showed nearly half of adults in the UK are living with cholesterol levels above national guidelines, so we turned to GP Dr Sarah Jarvis for advice on how often to get checked and what to do if it is high…

Dr Sarah Jarvis

Dr Sarah Jarvis

What figures should we be aiming to achieve?

According to the NHS, a healthy level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and non-high density lipoprotein (Non-HDL) cholesterol, both known as “bad” cholesterol, are 3.0 mmol/L or below and 4.0 or below mmol/L respectively, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) – the “good” cholesterol, should be 1.0 or above.

Currently, almost half of people in the UK have cholesterol above national guidelines for total cholesterol, putting them at risk of developing heart disease. People with high cholesterol often don’t display symptoms, and many don’t realise they have it until they develop more serious health issues, such as a heart attack or stroke.

GP Dr Sarah Jarvis, comments, “This research highlights some really quite stark gaps in knowledge when it comes to cholesterol management. The good news is that many people seem to be speaking with their GPs about their cholesterol levels. However, they may not know the right questions to ask around the results they’re given or where to begin when it comes to finding ways to manage their levels.

By gaining better understanding of cholesterol and knowing your own levels, you can take steps to manage your cholesterol and have better control of your heart health.

“The NHS offers cholesterol tests as part of their five year health check programme. However, as high cholesterol is often a silent condition, if you’re concerned about your levels, or not sure what they should be and would like further information, you can get them checked more regularly. It is easy to get a test. If you’re eligible, you can get an NHS Health Check. These have been paused in some areas because of the ongoing impact of the pandemic. However, your GP or practice nurse, and sometimes your pharmacist, can help.”

Jules Payne, Chief Executive of HEART UK, highlights the risks of cholesterol for those who have suffered from a cardiovascular event.

“Knowledge and management of cholesterol can be even more important for those who have suffered an event such as a heart attack or stroke, as almost half of people who have suffered an acute event experienced a second one, on average within 114 days.”

“It may seem daunting for people to figure out where to begin, but there are simple measures that can be taken, such as incorporating foods that can help lower cholesterol into the diet, or adding another hour or two to their weekly exercise.

Small lifestyle changes can make a huge difference to a person’s quality of life and helps them reduce the risk of further health issues.

“This period can, unsurprisingly, be quite stressful for people and their families, so knowing simple measures to take that will keep cholesterol levels down can help. HEART UK can provide information and support to help them with this journey.”

What causes high cholesterol?

High cholesterol can be caused by a number of factors, such as lifestyle, family history and health issues. While some factors, such as age, gender and family history cannot be controlled, there are things that can be done to lower and manage your levels, such as changing diet, increasing exercise and stopping smoking, which can also reduce risk of other illnesses or help them from getting worse.

What to do if you are worried about your cholesterol

Dr Jarvis recommends that adults over 40 should follow the NHS guidance on getting their cholesterol checked every five years, and those with high cholesterol or other pre-existing heart conditions should get checked more regularly, as directed by their GP.


Don’t miss health advice every week from Dr Sarah Jarvis in the pages of My Weekly as she tackles the latest health issues we are worried about. Pick up our current issue where Sarah talks about living with covid, and next week’s issue where she discusses blood pressure – is yours too high?

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Allison Hay

I joined the My Weekly team twelve years ago, and I love the variety of topics we cover both online and in the magazine. I manage the digital content for the brand, sharing features and information on the website, social media and in our digital newsletters. I also work for Your Best Ever Christmas - perfect as it's my favourite time of year!