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Check your cholesterol regularly

Cholesterol Screening


Cholesterol problems can affect anyone.   To prevent this silent killer from reducing your life expectancy, come to Zuzimpilo clinic to have your cholesterol levels checked.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a lipid (a type of fat chemical) found in the blood  that is crucial for normal body functioning. The liver produces the majority of the cholesterol that the body needs. However most people with problematic cholesterol have just have elevated levels because they inherited it from their parents.  You can make cholesterol problems worse if you eat too many foods that are from animals. Examples of these are cow and pig meat,  things made from full cream milk products (cheese, yoghurt etc). Some people will increase their cholesterol when they eat lots of meat, or cheese leading to raised blood cholesterol levels.

It’s the raised (high) cholesterol that is a danger to your cardio-vascular health.

It is estimated that a total of 5.5 million South Africans are at risk of getting a heart-attack because of their high cholesterol levels.

Types of Cholesterol

There are two types of cholesterol found in our bodies - one a good type and another a bad one.

  • High-density lipoproteins cholesterol (HDL cholesterol). This is often referred to as good cholesterol because it helps remove cholesterol from the arteries, the blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood from your heart to the body’s cells.
  • Low- density lipoproteins cholesterol (LDL cholesterol). This is often referred to as bad cholesterol because when high levels of it circulates in the blood, it can slowly build up in the inner walls of the blood vessels that feed the heart and brain.

A helpful way to remember the difference between HDL and LDL:

  • You want HDL cholesterol levels to be HIGH.
  • You want LDL cholesterol levels to be LOW.  Sometimes LDL is known as “lousy”

Adverse Health effects

Too much cholesterol in the blood can lead to cardiovascular  (heart and blood vessel) disease. Cardio-vascular disease kills 200 individuals in South Africa every day, which equates to 13 mini bus loads of people!

High cholesterol blocks up the blood vessels that feed the heart and brain.

A heart attack is likely to occur if blood flow to part of the heart muscle becomes blocked. If you don't have emergency treatment to quickly get the blood flowing again, the section of the heart muscle starved of oxygen-rich blood can die. A heart attack may be fatal.

Blockages in the blood vessel that supply the brain can lead to stroke, which damages the section of brain tissue deprived of oxygen-rich blood. Strokes are also sometimes fatal.


The condition its self will rarely cause any symptoms, the only way to find out if you have high cholesterol is through a cholesterol test.  Usually this test is done when you have not eaten for 8 hours.  The most convenient time to do this is before breakfast.

A cholesterol test is a blood test that will look at the key lipids or fats, that are in the blood, such as:

  • Total cholesterol
  • HDL cholesterol
  • LDL cholesterol

If your cholesterol levels are high your healthcare provider may recommend following a cholesterol lowering diet, getting more active, taking medication or a combination of these.

What causes high cholesterol?

Everybody has some risk of developing high cholesterol which then may cause one or more cardiovascular diseases.

However the most common causes are lifestyle related.

  • An unhealthy diet with too much saturated fat, salt and dairy.
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Lack of exercise
  • Obesity

Other risk factors which are not lifestyle related are:

  • Diabetes
  • Kidney diseases that affect kidney functioning

Some people have naturally high blood cholesterol levels, due to a rare inherited condition called familial hypercholesterolemia (FH).

If one family member is diagnosed with FH, it is vitally important that all members of the family have a full fasting lipogram done to test if they have FH.


Non-drug treatment involves a change of one’s lifestyle which will need a committed effort from you the patient.

  • Eat a low fat, low-cholesterol diet, talk to your doctor at Zuzimpilo about the best meal plan for you.
  • Begin a safe exercise programme with the advice of your doctor.
  • If you are overweight or obese, start losing weight.
  • If you smoke, quit today.
  • Avoid processed and refined sugars and starches (white bread, white rice)
  • Drink alcohol in moderation, this means two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.

Drug treatment

If a healthy diet and exercise do not work your doctor may recommend cholesterol lowering medication.   You doctor may also prescribe medication to lower your high blood pressure (Hypertension) if it affects you as well.

The most commonly prescribed medications, Statin, Aspirin and Niacin.

  • Statin block the enzyme (a type of chemical) in your liver that helps make cholesterol. This leads to a reduction in your blood cholesterol level.
  • Aspirin, in some cases, a low daily dose of aspirin may be prescribed, depending on your age (children under 16 should not take aspirin) and other factors. Low-dose aspirin can prevent blood cloth from forming.
  • Niacin is a B vitamin that is found in foods and multivitamin supplements. In high doses (available by prescription), niacin lowers LDL and triglycerides and raises HDL.

Monitoring and control

Monitoring cholesterol levels is crucial because individuals with unhealthy cholesterol levels typically do not develop specific symptoms.

It is recommended that everyone over the age of 20 should get their cholesterol checked at least once every five years.

However, if you have a family history of high cholesterol, or you have been diagnosed with a chronic condition, such as diabetes or heart disease, you may need to get your cholesterol checked more frequently.

Sources:  The Heart and Stroke foundation of South Africa, Health 24, Health-e News Service, American Heart Foundation

Annual Health Checks | High Blood Pressure Management | Diabetes Management | Adult Immunisation | Child Vaccine Programme | Family Planning | Pap SmearsVoluntary HIV Testing | CD4 TestingWellness ProgrammeARV ProgrammePrevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission | Post-exposure Prophylaxis | TB Screening | Pharmacy


One man’s reaction to his diagnosis.


How this lady’s life has improved

10 ways to be successful on ARVs

Download this article here

Antiretroviral therapy typically combines three or more antiretroviral drugs that work together to keep the HI Virus from multiplying. Although antiretroviral drugs improve health and delay death, they do not cure HIV/AIDS.


  1. Commit to drug taking: ART is lifelong treatment which needs to be taken correctly for it to be effective.
  2. Get to know your treatment: Ensure that you know and understand what medication you are on and how to take it.
  3. Choose a pill time: Get help from your healthcare provider to work out a medication schedule that will fit into your daily activities.
  4. Remember your medication: Make use of an alarm clock or cellphone to remind you when to take your medication.
  5. Get a pillbox: Keep a supply of your drugs with you wherever you go, so that you do not miss your pill time (it also helps to have a bottle of water with you).
  6. Get a treatment buddy: It helps to disclose to someone close to you, preferably someone who lives with you, who will be able to offer you support and to remind you to take your treatment.
  7. Missed doses: If you miss a dose take it as soon as you remember. But if it’s almost time for your next dose then you should wait and take the next dose. Do not take double doses.
  8. Stopping treatment: Do not stop treatment on your own, unless instructed to do so by your doctor.
  9. Be aware of side effects: Ensure that your health care provider has explained to you any possible side effects that you may experience. If you do experience any report them to your Health care provider as soon as possible.
  10. Monitoring and evaluation: Be sure to keep all scheduled appointments with your healthcare provider, especially in the first few months of taking treatment, so that the effect of the treatment can be monitored.



Name: Sarah
Age: 34 years

This patient found out that she was HIV positive when she was 4 months pregnant. She struggled to tell her mom and her partner who also found out he was HIV positive. She gave birth to an HIV negative son. Her family supports her to take her ARVS every evening when Generations begin and she hasn’t looked back. In fact she often forgets she is HIV positive!

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Name: Disebo

Age: 39 years

This ZuziMpilo Medical Centre patient thought she would die within three days of her AIDS diagnosis which she discovered after the birth of her son. Rather than tell her family the truth, she told her mom she had Cancer, but when she finally admitted to having AIDS, she was almost forced to leave home. Thankfully she began on ARVs. She says: “Seven year later I am still doing well on treatment and living a healthy life thanks to the drugs. Antiretroviral medication really works!”

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