DR ELLIE CANNON: Does my cholesterol mean I need statins?

DR ELLIE CANNON: Does my cholesterol mean I need statins?

I had a cholesterol blood test and my results were: 6 total cholesterol, 4 good cholesterol and 2.1 for the bad type. What does this mean? Should I consider statins? I am a 67-year-old woman.

Cholesterol is a fatty substance that accumulates in the arteries, and some types have been linked to heart disease.

Years ago, doctors used to consider only total levels of cholesterol when thinking about what was healthy.

Now we know that levels of both types – LDL and HDL – are important, and looking at the specific amounts of the two types gives us a more accurate picture of how cholesterol may affect the heart.

This week a 67-year-old woman has written to Dr Ellie and is worried about her cholesterol levels and wonders whether she requires statins, picture posed by model

The good type of cholesterol is called HDL and the bad LDL.

More from Dr Ellie Cannon for The Mail on Sunday…

For a woman, an HDL level of above 1.2 is considered healthy. For a man, it’s above 1.

Healthy levels of LDL are below 3 for both men and women. In order to work out the level of risk, doctors compute the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL. In your case, this works out as 1.5, which is a very good, low result. Less than 4 is healthy.

When it comes to recommending statins, levels of HDL and total cholesterol are assessed alongside a host of other risk factors to calculate what’s known as your QRisk score. They include age, blood pressure, blood sugar and many others.

You could first consider non-drug treatments such as exercise and diet, including eating more cholesterol-lowering foods like oats and soya.

Knowing your cholesterol level is just as important as knowledge of other risks such as blood pressure and weight. Working to improve all of these risk factors can help to prevent heart disease.

In the past 12 months I have found it difficult to write or complete household tasks without shaking. It lessens as I continue writing. It’s embarrassing if someone asks me to sign something. Should I see my GP?

THIS sounds like something called a tremor which can be the sign of a serious, underlying condition. Doctors assess the potential cause of a tremor based on what you’re doing when it strikes. For some people, it appears when you hold a position – such as arms outstretched. For others, it comes on when they’re not doing anything. We call this a resting tremor. Resting tremors are typical in people with Parkinson’s disease.

Shakiness sparked by an activity could be a sign of a neurological illness such as multiple sclerosis or a disease within the brain. Sometimes it is a side effect from medication, or thyroid disease.

It could also be anxiety, or a sign of nothing at all.

With any shaking it is vital to visit your GP for blood tests to rule out serious illness. If no underlying illness is found, treatment will depend on how much you feel the tremor is affecting your life.

Rod’s hobby keeps him on the rails

Rocker Rod Stewart has been following the advice I give to most of my patients: take up a hobby.

The 74-year-old shared pictures of his model railway set last week, which he’s been building for 20 years.

He’ll no doubt feel a huge sense of pride, pleasure and achievement – all of which provide a substantial boost to his mental health.

Not to mention the relaxing effect of having something enjoyable, other than work, to focus on.

In these increasingly stressful times everyone needs to have a hobby – even rock stars.

Rod Stewart has been following the advice I give to most of my patients: take up a hobby

We have to stop scaring smokers off safer e-cigs

I’m concerned about the constant scare stories regarding the use of electronic cigarettes.

Patients are becoming scared to make the swap from deadly cigarettes because of headlines about their supposed dangers.

Last week, for instance, British teenager Ewan Fisher blamed his device for the development of his deadly respiratory condition.

We know that taking up vaping will reduce smokers’ risk of cancer and heart disease by 95 per cent

And a German cardiologist called e-cigarettes ‘dangerous’, arguing for a ban.

But we know that taking up vaping will reduce smokers’ risk of cancer and heart disease by 95 per cent.

Obviously inhaling anything – be it vapour, tobacco smoke or traffic fumes – is not risk-free. But we must remember that the vapour from electronic cigarettes is far less dangerous to health than cigarette smoke.

I’m always nervous when a patient tells me they’re seeing a chiropractor for help with back pain.

And a shocking report last week reminded me why.

Pensioner John Lawler from York died after several trips to a chiropractor, who twisted and bent his spine – and left him with a broken neck and multiple spinal fractures.

And his isn’t the only tragic case I’ve read about.

Given the limited benefits of the treatment, it’s simply not worth the risk.

I was shocked to learn last week that some colleagues want to ban GP home visits. A group of leading doctors from the British Medical Association think scrapping them will save precious hours of GP time.

I vehemently disagree. I see patients at home at least once a week. 

Such visits are an essential part of my job and life-saving for thousands who are frail, disabled and housebound. 

Others are reaching the end of their life and are in desperate need of help with pain-management. A video appointment or check-up with a nurse would not suffice. The answer is to find more GPs, not compromise the care for those in need.

 

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