Conspiracy theories R us

Don’t get me wrong – I am a big fan of the NHS – free health care for all – amazing!  But yesterday I was given the results of my blood cholesterol by my NHS “healthcare assistant” – who asked me such probing questions as, “Do you think you have a healthy diet?” “Yes” – move on to next question…

I shouldn’t be so sniffy – I am very keen on preventative medicine – and people being encouraged to take care of themselves, and take responsibility for their health.  But yesterday’s encounter with NHS preventative medicine left me feeling very cynical about the NHS’s relationship with the pharmaceutical industry and those much talked about little pills – statins…

The thing is – the cholesterol sums just don’t add up.  And my cholesterol figures illustrate this perfectly.

The NHS and the British Heart Foundation seem to be aligned on how one judges risk – indeed if one explores how they do it in the US, Canada, most of Europe we get the same calculations thrown at us over and over again.

So my quibble is this:

If the measure of whether one’s cholesterol levels are a cause for concern is taken to be the TOTAL of one’s HDL (good cholesterol) and LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides  (which seem to be the least important part of the equation)  – HOW THE HELL DOES THAT WORK?


Because LDL increases your level of risk and HDL lowers it.


Thus if we take my results:


My total level was:  5.6 – this puts me above the 5-5.2 healthy threshold which seems to be pretty much agreed across the Western world.


But this total of 5.6 could be reached by having an LDL of 5 – which is definitely bad – should be 3 or less – plus 0.6 LDL – again really bad – should be above 1.

Mine however was made up of 3.1 LDL  and thus within the range 2.6-3.3 described by the British Heart Foundation as “close to ideal”

plus an HDL of 2.21 when all the recommendations state that if you can get it above 1 then you are doing well.


Thus I was told I was at a “slight risk”,    though as I didn’t  have any other risk factors – smoking, overweight etc – that I didn’t need to worry too much.


This is crazy!  And would leave me to feel that the whole world was conspiring to turn any result good or bad towards a possible, “You might do well to start taking statins to reduce your risk” conversation… were it not for this:

Tucked away on the NHS website – not immediately apparent when I first perused it was this:

“Your ratio of total cholesterol to HDL may also be calculated. This is your total cholesterol level divided by your HDL level. Generally, this ratio should be below 4, as a higher ratio increases your risk of heart disease.”

If you put my figures into this equation then you get 2.5 – well below 4.

But that’s not what my healthcare assistant told me…

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Emily MumfordView all posts by Emily Mumford