Cholesterol Curiosity: Every year in... - British Heart Fou...

British Heart Foundation

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Cholesterol Curiosity

lateguitarist profile image

Every year in between my "regular checkup" (as long as I remind them) I have a private blood test done. I am just curious how it compares with other members who might do likewise, or at least have an interest in their own. I am a vegetarian (eat fish though), have very little dairy and take fairly vigorous regular exercise, but unfortunately have a family history of CHD. Today's result, without going too much into the details, were: Total Cholesterol = 3.4, LDL = 1.6, HDL = 1.37, Non HDL 2.

Anyone keep a track of their own?

54 Replies

That looks very good! You are doing great, honestly 👌🌃🌌 need to rest now!🌃🌌

Rest whats that???

I only get mine done via GP, so far that's every 6 months(ish), they're keen to get me on a statin, i'm not so keen, last one before xmas Total was ~5.0, I can't find my older one's but the last one from 1/2/21 was :

Total 4.10

LDL 2.31

HDL 1.30

Non HDL 2.80

Tri 1.12

Ratio 3.15

I think (hope) that my next will be a bit better again, started to include more salmon, avocado's etc over last few months.

Like you I exercise fairly vigorously 6 days a week, i eat meat although steaks are now once a month.

Interesting. I got a bee in my bonnet around March of 2019, thinking the Statins were causing a few problems, along with concerns about the way they work, so I stopped taking them for 2 months and focused very strictly on diet. I had a test done at the end of the test period and was, I have to say, pretty disappointed. Levels had risen generally and were quite similar to yours. Back on Atorvastatin 80mg and they went back to the fairly consistent levels of: Tot 3.4, LDL 1.6, HDL 1.37, Non HDL 2, Tri 0.85, Ratio 0.62 (not sure if this is the same measurement it seems quite different?) However when I was off the Statin my HDL (good) figure was 1.81 which is the highest it has ever been, maybe the Statin actually suppresses this as well? What is putting you off the Statin Gaz? I went through all sorts of questions but in the end decided most of the supposed side effects were either between my ears or due to my lack of youth. I have no figures for pre-event other than a total cholesterol figure of 4.9 about 5 years previous, which was done during a "well man" medical, which I am a bit cheesed off about as with a family history of CHD measures should have been put in place to get it lower back then - although I concede weather it would have made much difference is questionable.

I tried Atorvastatin a couple of years ago and reacted quite badly with muscle ache, to the point that I could hardly walk, never mind run!

GP & cardiologist agreed with me that exercise was more important.

A few months later, when muscles had recovered, they suggested Rosuvastatin, even at a low dose of 1 every 3 days to start, but I declined as I was having issues with low BP, again they agreed.

Now BP is ok they are pushing for me to try again, but I’m reluctant as have been feeling the best I have in 3 years and don’t want a set back.

Maybe in the near future I will try again, as I fully appreciate the benefits are not just about lowering cholesterol.

One thing I was told, cholesterol has quite a delayed reaction to diet/exercise, so you need to give it time to show any benefits (or not!) in blood tests.

Get that all day Gaz, I would be the same if it was preventing me exercising. I have mentioned it before but when I was on Rehab there was a guy there who worked as a biochemist actually at the same hospital! he had had a HA and was really extolling the virtues of Statins including the hopefully regressive effects, which I think centre around a prolonged lowering of cholesterol.

winniebago profile image
winniebago in reply to Gaz_chops

Doctor took me off statins beginning of this year - they made me really poorly - particularly muscle problems, could hardly get out of bed am. Now manage my own. Tough call because it’s pretty restricted. On the plus side cholesterol has reduced from 6.9 to 4.6 in approximately 5 months. Severe heart failure in left chamber has improved from 35% (severe) to 40% (moderate) and I have lost a stone and a half without dieting. Follow mega healthy regime and yes, it can be tough. However consultant wants me to get down to 4 so hopefully I will soon be able to have the odd treat later this year. Currently it’s wholewheat pasta/bread, fresh fish, chicken, piles of vegetables, limited fruit, nuts every day and my big treat is one square of dark chocolate daily - at least 89% cocoa. Also have one daily cocoa bean drink. Sound exciting doesn’t it - ha ha. However I want to get well above all things so I’m sticking with it. Good luck!

Well done. Why do you say "treat"? I get where you are coming from but it's not a treat if its contributing to increasing your cholesterol it is? It makes me chuckle when people push themselves round a 5K run and then finish off with a "treat" of a bit of cake!

Dark chocolate and cocoa - with high levels of real beans and not sweetened - are extremely beneficial for the heart. Indeed, they are recommended. I used the word “treat” because it’s the nearest thing I get to pretending I’m having a biscuit/cake. Oh yes - I remember them.

Yes I do! Cream teas, Belly Pork, Toast and dripping, Lamb Stew......It would be easy to say I had not had such as "traditional" diet, but it is what it is. I do not miss them, honestly. Anyway have a try of Montezumas range of Dark Choccy, it's excellent! Tesco did the "Sea dog" variety last time I looked it was on clubcard offer.

Thank you - will do!

Hey man, I’ve been taking statin, rusovastatin 10mg without side affect, and after taking it I’ve had the highest HDL ever. Ask our doctor to change to rusovastatin.

just as a footnote my LDL (bad) level was 2.59 after the no-statin period, way the highest it has ever been since I started logging results.

Yes, I keep a close check on a few key heart metrics...although we'll all likely have slightly different lists dependant upon what we individually believe to be the key triggers of our heart disease.

My NHS blood lipid test figures are,

Total cholesterol 2.7 mmol/L, which is within the target zone

HDL 1.09 (target range is 0.75-1.85)

Non-HDL 1.61

Plasma cholesterol/HDL ratio 2.5 (target range is 1.0-4.0)

I don't eat processed meats, but I do have grass fed red meat about once a week, and fish or chicken about five days per week. However, my cholesterol levels weren't terrible before I was diagnosed with angina, and as soon as I started taking statins they dropped still further.

More of an issue for me is HbA1c levels, looking back on annual company medicals they show a slow but steady increase over many years until they peaked at 41 mmol/mol, just a whisker below the point where you're classed as pre-diabetic. But losing a couple of stone and exercising seriously and regularly has brought that right down to the high 20's, well within the safe zone.

Another metric I monitor (with private tests as the standard NHS test doesn't cover it) is Cortisol levels. I'm not a particularly stressed or anxious personality, but I used to do an international job with up to 30 long haul trips per year. The fractured sleep and jet lag cranked up my cortisol levels (apparently shift workers often see the same thing...and they also have high levels of heart disease and heart attacks). Again, lifestyle changes have brought this right down.

The final metric I closely monitor is blood pressure and pulse. mine average 105/64 with a resting pulse of 62. I'm comfortable with these, and medication, exercise, weight loss, and a low salt diet seems to keep these pretty stable.

I agree with the axiom "what gets measured gets fixed", so I think you're doing the right thing by regularly checking your key metrics!

I was expecting a good report from you :) Seriously, you look from those scores as though you should not be on here! Your total score is very good may I ask if you are on a Statin? I am going to guess the answer is yes, if so do you take it at night or other times? I have to say my total has crept up a bit since I started to take it in the morning due to getting nightmares if taken at night. I am aware this is not a notable side effect but this one definitely is with me! I don't have blood sugar level figures recently but when they have been taken they have been reported as well within limits. Thanks for the reply!

Hello, I take a 40mg statin each night. It's probably a bigger dose than I need but I don't seem to have any adverse side effects so I've never objected to it.

I'm surprised there isn't more focus on this forum on HbA1c scores. This metric is part of the standard NHS annual blood test package for heart patients, so most of us will know our results.

My GP is very focussed on HbA1c as an early warning signal for type 2 diabetes and as a major explanation for heart disease, heart attacks and (especially if in conjunction with evidence of AF) strokes. There are even better tests for measuring insulin resistance, but HbA1c is free and already in wide use, so it's a great starting point. The other great thing about HbA1c is that if your scores are drifting into the danger zone you can quickly turn them around with weight loss, reduced carbs, intermittent fasting/restricted eating hours, and exercise. You don't need medication, and you can generally see dramatic results reasonably quickly.

84green profile image
84green in reply to Chappychap

Hi Chappychap

My own take on this (purely based on personal experience).

Prior to my CAD diagnosis 18 months ago my cholesterol levels had always been in the normal range. However, I was diagnosed a Type 2 diabetic in 2015 - HbA1c in Feb 2020 was 54mmol/mol (diabetes is diagnosed above 48). My point being that I personally don’t believe my heart disease resulted from high cholesterol but from inflammation (and long term elevated blood pressure).

The CAD diagnosis finally kicked me into overdue action. I lost five stone, increased exercise, changed diet and for the last 12 months my HbA1c has been between 32 and 39 without meds.

So I agree with your diabetes point.

I take 20 mg Rosuvastatin which I seem to tolerate. My most recent levels were cholesterol 3.1, LDL 1.1, HDL 1.8 and trigs 0.82. When CAD diagnosed my cardiologist set a target of below 4 for cholesterol and below 1.7 for LDL and reduced my dose of Atorvastatin when I reached this. I then saw a different cardiologist during a stress echo test who advised taking the maximum dose I could tolerate - up to 20mg Rosuvastatin or 40 mg for the others (I haven’t had a heart attack or any surgery). He told me that there was research that indicated that lowering LDL below 1.7 (or 70mg/dl) could achieve plaque regression.

No idea if it has worked but my ecg that led to the initial diagnosis (via CT angiogram) indicated ischaemia as a finding. A year later a follow up ecg showed no abnormalities. Cardiologist said it suggested that the medication and lifestyle changes may have improved the state of my atherosclerosis.

Now I know that CAD can’t be cured and that an ecg is a snapshot and not a definitive test like an angiogram but I was nevertheless encouraged to continue the regime.

I am somewhat sceptical of the prescribing of statins for people with no heart disease but, where it is diagnosed, I am happy to follow the advice of the experts who deal with heart disease on a daily basis. My view being that, once the lining of the arteries is damaged, minimising your LDL/ trigs and maximising HDL is important.

Very interesting particularly in respect of lowering LDL below 1.7. Mine is currently 1.6 but was 2.59 when following a fairly strict plant based diet but no statins. As you say they have got a bad press because (largely US based) doctors hand them out like smarties, but for those of us who stand to benefit, I believe them to be essential.

Chappychap profile image
Chappychap in reply to 84green

"He told me that there was research that indicated that lowering LDL below 1.7 (or 70mg/dl) could achieve plaque regression."

If you could point us towards the research i'd appreciate it. I'm a little sceptical about reversing plaque, certainly the NHS and BHF position is that sadly it's not possible. However, I'll keep an open mind and it would certainly be a wonderful thing if it were ever proven!

84green profile image
84green in reply to Chappychap

These are some random ones. I realise it’s a topic of much debate. I suspect any regression is a) random and b) very small. That said, I’d settle for no regression and no progression!

Same here! First one looks a good start I will have a better look later on when the Mrs is watching some depressing drama and the guitars back in its box.

Chappychap profile image
Chappychap in reply to 84green

"The CAD diagnosis finally kicked me into overdue action. I lost five stone, increased exercise, changed diet and for the last 12 months my HbA1c has been between 32 and 39 without meds."

That's massive! Congratulations on such a terrific result!

Hi Chappychap.Thank you for sharing, an interesting read.

I hope you're right, now on my radar unfortunately. Absolutely gutted when they told me, last week, especially as it was heading upwards 8 months ago but wasn't mentioned.

I've read both Iron levels, another issue that came up last week and HbA1c levels can be effected by surgery so I'm hoping there might be that within my results???


I'd say 3.4 mmol/L is pretty good without any medication. My baseline without medication is 4.4, which reduced to 3.7 with a low dose of statin taken on alternate days. However, the level has been creeping up slowly and is now 4.1, so I have requested additional medication and will be taking medication every day from the start of next week.

I too monitor other parameters and take regular blood pressure readings. My main area of concern is my homocysteine level which contributes to blood clots, the cause of my HA. I have had to request this test as my GP was unaware of this factor despite having been advised in writing by pathology at the local hospital. As the means of controlling homocysteine I take over the counter vitamin B, which is of course not on my medical records.

Hi. My total was 4.91 when not on the statin, pretty much the same as I was years before my problems started. When back on the Statin it has been between 3.1 and currently 3.4 but as I mentioned in another reply this might be because I take it in the morning not as recommended night. I am going to revert back to nights from today and hope the demons do not return. I had not heard of homocysteine but after a quick google it seems high levels are predominantly from eating meat, were/are you a big meat eater or is it something peculiar to you? I certainly liked my meat in my previous life. Thanks for the reply.

High homocysteine - No, I'm not a big meat eater and never have been. Mostly eat chicken and fish. Red meat no more than once a week - can't remember when I last had a steak. For me, homocysteine is an hereditary issue - just nothing I can do about.

I've never been told when to take my statin, so I have everything with breakfast. I can then forget about medication and get on with my day. I'm only on 10mg of Rosuvastatin, so there's plenty of wriggle room if more is required. It's the same for all my other meds - all minimum doses.

Your supposed to take it before bed, as it works on the liver and it is supposedly more effective. Unfortunately for me it seems to produce some pretty awful nightmares.

Well, I'll see how I go with taking it daily and bear in mind that advice. ☺

Ah I love playing cholesterol top trumps 😃.

My latest profile was;

Total cholesterol- 2.42

HDL - 1.13

LDL - 0.98

Non HDL - 1.13

TRI - 0.68

I take 40mg atorvastatin & 10mg eztimbe

Exercise 6 days a week

Eat loads of seeds, nuts & olives 🫒

Thanks for the reply good effort!

Every one on statins, or thinking of going on statins, or having side effects from statins should read Dr Malcolm Kendrick's book "the great cholesterol con". Eye opener!!!!!! You will find out who benefits from statins and more importantly who doesnt.

Mmmm. Is the same guy who has been deleted from Wikipedia for being a "quack"? I have heard of him and read enough of his blog to have previously come to the conclusion that he is very controversial generally, and incorrect in a lot of his statements in my opinion, to the point of possibly putting an individual's health at risk. Not sure how old he is but he looks like he could benefit from a few loops round the local park as well. Whats your situation/thoughts on it? I see this is your first contribution to the forum but there are no clues to your medical history in your profile do you have heart disease?

lots of CHD in my family, i and most of my family members have FH, my latest cholesterol test was over 9. i have done years of research, not for my self but for my children as one of my daughters has inherited the FH gene. i owe it to them to inform myself. cholesterol is NOT the problem!

Sorry to hear about your family problems, mine too has an infamous history of CHD. However I think your statement about familial hypercholesterolaemia and high cholesterol levels is very controversial? I understand your situation, I was on Rehab with a lady who had it and she was at her wits end, but surely turning to what could be considered quackery is not the solution?

i have a responsibility to myself and my children to do my own research and decide what and who to believe.i have had a carothid artery scan done, my arteries are squeeky clean. From research i believe Lp(a) to be a risk factor, i had mine tested, ideally should be below 50 mine is 115, however there is currently no treatment for high Lp(a).

But you are taking a big risk in going against mainstream thinking? You are not a specialist, so should you be making such big decisions? Just because your carotid arteries are clear does not mean to say others are. As you say Pl(a) is a risk factor, and the current response is to lower it by using statins, as you say there is currently no cure.

Oh yea, he’s a GP…. that makes him mega qualified as a authority on statin use 🙄

check out Dr Aseem Malholtra, if you want a cardiologist view

Another controversial "celebrity" Dr. Do you have any more in the closet? It might help your cause if you responded to my question about your particular heart problems/medications and how you have managed them?

i stopped taking statins and feel better than ever........

as a GP he is on the front line of dealing with side effects of statins

I too have a book about statins. An ambulance man who attended me in January called them rat poison!

That was Warfarin.

poison indeed

Just don’t take it, it’s your live your rules.The doctor will do things that is in his range, maybe in next few years the cure to hearth attack will come, but for now, it’s the only option beside lifestyle

HiAre these fasting or non fasting numbers?

Non fasting, but taken immediately after breakfast so probably before food had any impact. However the lowest I have achieved was about 2 weeks after discharge from hospital, which was 3.1 and a fasting test.

You are not a vegetarian if you eat fish 🙂

lateguitarist profile image
lateguitarist in reply to TRST

Oh awfully sorry, pescatarian. Are you venturing your cholesterol levels or just taking the opportunity for one of your little digs?

Well i am not veg. but i dont have ny heart disease but i am only 43 years old.

My numbers were as follows on the last check: It is not treated in any way, i.e i do not take statins or so.

Total chol: 5.3 MMOL

HDL: 1.3

LDL: 4.3

Trigl: 0.86

Total/HDL ratio: 4.07

i also did get the ApoA1 and Apo B numbers.

Hi Andy. Hope you do not mind me saying but with that condition you need to start lowering your Cholesterol levels my friend. You say you do not have heart disease but I fear you might well have later in life if you do not take steps to lower it now. Were these levels checked by a Doctor or other health care provider?

No worries! I guess we are here to write about the things that we bring up! The measurements were checked by a doctor.

So you were told you have mixed hyperlipidemia by a nurse. It seems rather strange to me that following your recent result of total cholesterol 5.3 and in particular LDL of 4.3 they have not suggested they take measures to lower those figures. If they were mine I would be alarmed to say the least, although I have no idea what attitude is taken towards this in Sweden.

Well they told me to first try lifestyle intervention and put me on a 3 month follow up instead of the normal yearly. So i guess its not considered normal. Plus they are to follow up blood pressure too

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