Blood cholesterol monitoring

At our pharmacies we offer a screening service to test your blood cholesterol levels as this may influence your cardiovascular risk. It’s completely confidential and only takes a few minutes.

 

Cardiovascular risk

Ischaemic heart disease and stroke are the 2 leading causes of death worldwide. A major risk factor for the development of both diseases is dyslipidaemia, a term coined to an abnormal amount of lipids in your blood. Blood lipids are fatty substances, such as cholesterol and triglycerides, which are essential for the normal functioning of the body:

  • Triglycerides store unused calories and are a source of energy for the body
  • Cholesterol is a component used to build cells and certain hormones

However, excess amounts of these substances can result in the fat deposits in your artery walls, making it difficult for blood to flow, which in turn can have a negative impact on your cardiovascular functioning. Sometimes, those deposits can break suddenly and form a clot that causes a heart attack or stroke.

 

A specific blood test, a lipid profile, is used to check your cholesterol levels. Your total cholesterol (TC) level is made up of 3 components: LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and 20% of triglycerides (TGs).

  1. High density lipoproteins (HDL) are the “good” cholesterol because it helps remove the “bad” cholesterol from the bloodstream and therefore reduces the risk of heart disease
  2. Low density lipoproteins (LDL) are the bad” cholesterol because it can build up in the walls of your blood vessels and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke
  3. Triglycerides (TGs) are similar to LDL cholesterol as they are also a “bad” lipid as elevated levels can make the blood thick and sticky

 

The findings of this test are used to diagnose whether you have dyslipidaemia or not. There are different types of dyslipidaemia which exist:

  1. High levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL), or bad cholesterol
  2. Low levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL), or good cholesterol
  3. High levels of triglycerides
  4. High cholesterol, which refers to high LDL and triglyceride levels

 

Based on the type and severity of dyslipidaemia that you have, your medical professional may recommend lifestyle changes such as a change in diet, the inclusion of more aerobic activities such as walking or cycling to improve your cardiovascular functioning and/or medication to normalise your blood lipid levels.

 

Signs and symptoms

Most people with dyslipidaemia are unaware that they have it owing to the fact that there are no symptoms unless the condition is severe.

 

What are the causes and who is at risk?

Factors that cause dyslipidemia are categorised into

  • Primary: Genetic (hereditary) causes
  • Secondary: Lifestyle and other causes

 

Primary causes involve gene mutations that cause the body to produce too much LDL cholesterol or triglycerides or to fail to remove those substances. These are hereditary and are thus non-modifiable, therefore unfortunately, no measures can be taken to reduce your risk. On the other hand, secondary causes of dyslipidaemia include lifestyle behaviours. These are modifiable and therefore, measures can be implemented to reduce your risk.

 

There are many secondary causes of dyslipidaemia, the most important being a sedentary lifestyle with excessive dietary intake of total calories, saturated and trans fats. Others may include:

  • Cigarette smoking
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Consuming large amounts of alcohol
  • Diabetes Miletus
  • Hypothyroidism

 

What is the test offered at the pharmacy?

As explained above, a blood test is used as the gold standard to diagnose dyslipidaemia. However, throughout the year, one of our pharmacists may also check your total cholesterol (TC) and triglyceride (TG) levels via a finger prick test. Although this is not a substitution for the laboratory method for diagnosis, it is a useful tool for monitoring cholesterol levels for patients who already have dyslipidaemia, or those who are at risk, such as obese or diabetic patients.

 

Before your consultation

For the most accurate results, make sure to be fasted for 9 to 12 hours before the test, only water is permitted.

 

How we test your blood cholesterol levels

In one of our pharmacies, the service will take place by a trained pharmacist that will take a small sample of blood via a finger prick. Depending on your result, we may ask you to come back for further assessment and may offer you lifestyle advice and ways of reducing your risk of developing dyslipidaemia. Alternatively, your pharmacist may also refer you back to your doctor for further medical investigation.

 


 

Frequently asked questions

 

How long will the service take?

The consultation will only take 5 minutes, but your pharmacist will take as long as necessary to answer any questions that you may have.

 

Do I have to pay for the service?

Yes. A payment of €6 for the service will be taken in the pharmacy at the time of your test.

 

Do I have to make an appointment?

No, you don’t. Your pharmacist may ask you to come at a certain time when the pharmacy is less busy to provide you the best service possible, or alternatively, you may want to request a particular time for peace of mind.