Q&A: Beating bad cholesterol

What is the burden of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in the UK?

Around seven million people in the UK live with CVD. It is one of the biggest causes of death and disability, costing our health service billions of pounds each year.

What is the link between cholesterol and CVD?

There are two forms of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol. LDL is the main source of artery-clogging plaque. HDL works to clear cholesterol from the blood.

When there is too much bad cholesterol in your blood, it can form plaque in the walls of your arteries that supply blood to vital organs, such as the heart and brain. In some people, this can cause blood flow to become sluggish or, critically, the artery to become blocked, increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

What should my cholesterol levels be? 

More than half of all UK adults have high cholesterol levels, a risk factor for CVD. It is important to have your cholesterol levels tested and, if high, speak to your doctor about ways to lower them.

What causes high cholesterol? 

High cholesterol can be caused by a number of factors, but is often diet or lifestyle related as this can affect the amount of fat in our blood and the way it circulates around the body. The following can increase cholesterol levels or affect the ratio of good to bad cholesterol: a diet high in saturated fat; not being physically active; being overweight; smoking; and your medical history, including whether you are living with diabetes, high blood pressure or have a family history of CVD.

However, high cholesterol is not always lifestyle related; it can be inherited. Genetic inherited high cholesterol (familial hypercholesterolaemia) leads to exceptionally high cholesterol levels and, if left untreated, this can lead to early heart disease.

How is high cholesterol treated?

People living with high cholesterol should first look to make positive diet and lifestyle changes to help bring down their risk of further complications. However, if needed, a doctor may also prescribe medication to help lower bad cholesterol levels.

Statins block the enzyme in your liver that helps make cholesterol. They are usually for people who continue to be at high risk of heart disease because they need to be taken for life. There are also medications available that block the absorption of cholesterol from food into your blood. Plus, alternative forms of treatments, which help the liver to lower cholesterol levels in the blood, usually prescribed on top of a cholesterol-lowering diet and where other treatments alone are not sufficient to lower bad cholesterol levels.

How is Sanofi helping to reduce the burden of CVD?

At Sanofi, we are focused on producing care solutions for the NHS to help address two key areas that contribute to CVD risk: the lowering of bad cholesterol in high-risk individuals; and the effective management of diabetes. Our vision is to empower life and we continue to strive to help improve the quality of life of people living with chronic conditions, while also supporting the sustainability of the NHS.

For more information please visit sanofi.co.uk

This feature has been written and paid for by Sanofi
Date of preparation: September 2018