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Cholesterol Screening Singapore

cholesterol

To understand the importance of cholesterol screening, we must first understand the impact of cholesterol levels in our body. 

High-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) are the two specific types of cholesterol we are concerned about. HDL is the “good” cholesterol that ferries excess cholesterol to the liver for processing. LDL, on the other hand,  is the “bad” cholesterol because it builds up in our arteries, causing them to become hard and narrow. This disrupts the blood flow to the heart which, in turn, affects oxygen levels and can potentially cause a heart attack. 

The goal is to keep your total cholesterol level as low as possible. 

What is cholesterol screening?

Cholesterol screening, as its name suggests, is screening for cholesterol levels. This is done via a lipid panel or lipid profile that is essentially a blood test that gives us four measures:

  • Your body’s total cholesterol content
  • Level of LDL
  • Level of HDL
  • Level of triglycerides*

*Triglycerides are a type of fat in the blood. High levels of triglycerides are associated with obesity, diabetes, and lifestyle factors such as eating too many sweets, drinking too much alcohol, lack of physical activity, and smoking

For this test to be as accurate as possible, you will generally be required to fast for 9 to 12 hours before the test. Some cholesterol tests may not require fasting but if you have been asked to fast, your cholesterol test would likely be in the morning. It is a relatively straightforward and painless blood test that requires drawing of blood from a vein, and you should be able to return to your daily activities without any precautions.

Why is cholesterol screening important?

A cholesterol test can help determine if your cholesterol levels are within the healthy range. And if they are not, then early detection and intervention can save you from more severe medical conditions associated with cholesterol.

With high cholesterol, arteries throughout your body are choked with fatty deposits. This build-up of deposits will make it increasingly difficult for blood to flow through your arteries and reach your organs. This dangerous build-up of fatty deposits is associated with:

  • Chest pain and other possible heart-related diseases, due to disrupted supply of blood and oxygen to your heart
  • Heart attack when the fatty deposits break and form a clot that plugs the flow of blood to part of your heart
  • Stroke when the clot blocks the flow of blood to your brain

On the other hand, there is limited information available to determine if low cholesterol levels are a real cause of concern. Although there is still no universal consensus on how to define very low LDL, there is some consensus that very low LDL may be associated with increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke, cancer, depression, and anxiety.

Cholesterol screening is even more important because high cholesterol can be a silent killer. It usually presents with no signs of symptoms. Knowing where your cholesterol levels stand would allow you to pre-empt any potential heart diseases or heart attacks, or even diseases of the blood vessels.

What affects your cholesterol levels?

Beyond genetic factors that are beyond our control, your lifestyle can seriously affect your cholesterol levels.

  • An unbalanced diet that includes too much saturated or trans fat 
  • Being on the heavy side with a body mass index of 30 or greater and relatedly, the lack of exercise. Exercise is known to boost your HDL levels
  • Smoking and drinking too much
  • As you grow older, your liver becomes less able to remove LDL cholesterol. This is especially more common in people over 40 years of age

Some medical conditions are associated with causing elevated cholesterol levels. These include diabetes, chronic kidney disease, hypothyroidism, lupus, HIV/AIDS.

Who should consider cholesterol screening in Singapore?

The Ministry of Health (MOH) recommends that you get screened if you are 40 years or older, have a previous history of heart attack or stroke, are currently suffering from diabetes, and/or have family members with high cholesterol.

From 30 years old, you should consider getting screened if you have other risk factors for heart disease (e.g., you smoke, have high blood pressure, or family members who developed heart disease before 65 years of age). If you are Indian or with Indian parentage, you may want to consider getting screened as well.

How are high cholesterol levels treated?

Lifestyle changes will go a long way. Small changes to your diet like opting for lean meat over foods with saturated/trans fats, incorporating a wide variety of fibre foods, and avoiding fast-food and sugar-filled, pre-packaged will help you lower your cholesterol levels. Coupled with regular exercise and less of not-so-good habits like smoking and consuming alcohol, you should see improvements in your cholesterol levels.

In some cases, your doctor might prescribe medications to help lower your cholesterol levels. In other cases, you may be able to lower your cholesterol without taking medication if lifestyle changes produce the desired results.

A healthy, active lifestyle also helps to prevent high cholesterol levels, so it is never too early too early to start making these lifestyle changes.

Is cholesterol screening Medisave claimable?

Medisave cannot be used for general health screenings in Singapore.

© 2023 by The Women's Wellness
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