High cholesterol puts you at risk of a heart attack
CARDIO-VASCULAR disease kills 200 people in SA every day, which equates to 13 minibus loads of people.
Additionally, 5.5million South Africans are at risk of getting a heart attack because of their high cholesterol levels.
You will be forgiven for thinking that only the obese, cigarette-smoking and lazy couch potatoes are at risk of getting a heart attack.
On the contrary, fit and active people are also at risk - all because they have slightly increased cholesterol levels. Dan Lupou, 56, from Johannesburg, is such a patient.
Having practised karate for about 25 years, he is fit. He goes to gym and swims about 2 to 3km a week.
Yet, two weeks ago, he had a heart attack while playing soccer.
"I had a sharp pain in my chest," he says.
"It was very cold outside and I thought the whole chest pain came from the cold, but I realised it's not that and I stopped 10 minutes before end of the game.
"On the next day I went to the doctor and they realised that I had a heart attack."
Lupou says this came as a shock to him as he did not think he would have a heart-related illness as he is active and generally keeps a healthy lifestyle.
So, what caused Lupou's heart attack if he leads such a healthy lifestyle?
Dr Eric Klug, a cardiologist in private practice, who is Lupou's doctor, says: "We think we know all the factors that cause heart disease. And when we look at populations of thousands of patients around the world, the major risk factors have always stood out . and that is smoking, diabetes, blood pressure, obesity and inactivity.
"But there are other factors . the genetics. Maybe a gene in him that he inherited from mother and dad. There might be an unknown factor to him in addition to his cholesterol."
Cholesterol is a fat (lipid) which is produced by the liver and is crucial for normal body functioning.
According to Klug, there are two types of cholesterol in the body.
Low Density Lipo-protein is a bad form of cholesterol because it builds up in the arteries of the heart, brain and throughout the body, which can lead to blockages.
This can eventually cause clogged arteries in the legs, a heart attack or even a stroke. High Density Lipo-protein is good because it helps to get rid of cholesterol from the body.
In the case of Lupou, it was found that his bad cholesterol, the Low Density Lipo-protein level, was a bit high, which is what triggered his heart attack.
And for a male to have a HDL is pretty neutral. It does not put him at risk.
"When people have an HDL less than 1, it increases the risk," Klug says.
Klug says it is recommended that everyone from the age of 20 has their cholesterol checked and does a follow up test, at least, once every five years.
This is something that Lupuo has never done in his life before.
Klug advised people not to ignore symptoms they can't explain, as not all heart attacks are dramatic.
"It's not always this dramatic ... severe pain, lying on the floor, losing consciousness type of thing," Klug says.
"This man had his soccer match, went home and complained to his wife about the pain. His wife intelligently gave him two Disprins and he went to bed and woke up the next day. He could have gone to bed and never woken up." - Health-e news