Cholesterol explained

Understand the cholesterol numbers

What do the different cholesterol levels mean? Here is a list of suggested interventions based on the results of total cholesterol and HDL levels.


High cholesterol, or hypercholesterolaemia, is a condition in which the amount of cholesterol in the blood exceeds normal values. This may be due to genetic or lifestyle factors.


Homocysteine is a naturally occurring, sulfur-containing amino acid in the blood that requires enzymes, vitamin B12, folic acid, and other vitamins to be converted to the essential amino acid methionine. Several conditions (such as deficiencies of certain vitamins in the body, kidney failure, hypothyroidism, or genetic defects) may cause homocysteine levels to rise.

Familial hypercholesterolaemia

Many people living in South Africa risk familial hypercholesterolaemia, where high cholesterol levels are the result of specific genetic defects.

Reality check

Ian Scher (57), CEO of Rescue South Africa, aids in disasters such as the recent Pakistan earthquake. It was a shock when he found out he had heart disease.

Heart disease – the risk factors

Almost all cases of coronary heart disease are due to atherosclerosis, either directly or indirectly. A variety of factors, often acting together, are associated with this.

Cholesterol and lipids

Cholesterol is one of a large and important class of biological molecules called lipids, scientific jargon for fats.


Atherosclerosis is a condition in which arteries become hardened and narrowed due to the deposition of cholesterol-rich plaques in the artery wall.

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