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What’s all the fuss about Cholesterol?

What’s all the fuss about Cholesterol?


Cholesterol is a lipid (fat chemical) that is produced by the liver from the fatty foods that we eat.


The level of cholesterol in your blood is an important factor in determining your risk of developing heart disease or suffering a stroke.

Cholesterol is carried in the blood as part of particles called lipoproteins.

Low-density lipoproteins carrying cholesterol  (LDL cholesterol) is often referred to as bad cholesterol as this is involved in forming atheroma (see below) which is the main underlying cause of various cardiovascular diseases.

High-density lipoproteins carrying cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) is often referred to as good cholesterol as HDL may prevent atheroma forming.

Atheroma are like small fatty lumps that develop within the inside lining of arteries (blood vessels). Atheroma is also known as atherosclerosis

or hardening of the arteries.

Over time, patches of atheroma can become larger and thicker thus making an artery narrower. This in turn reduces the blood flow through the artery. This narrowing of the arteries is the cause of angina.

Should a blood clot (thrombosis) form over a patch of atheroma it can completely block the blood flow causing a heart attack, stroke or other serious problems.

Ignorance is not bliss!


Because untreated high cholesterol levels can have such disastrous consequences, it is important that all adults should be aware of their cholesterol level. This is determined by a very simple blood test of which the results are known in 24hrs. Should cholesterol levels be high the patient will usually be advised about diet and life style changes, then cholesterol re-checked in about 3 months time. If cholesterol levels remain high the patient may be commenced on medication to reduce it.

Do not wait for a serious life threatening condition to manifest and reveal the fact that you have high cholesterol. Early diagnosis and management can without doubt save your life.

Restless legs syndrome

Restless legs syndrome

What is restless legs syndrome?

Restless legs syndrome, also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, is a common condition of the nervous system that causes an overwhelming, irresistible urge to move the legs.

It can also cause an unpleasant crawling or creeping sensation in the feet, calves and thighs. The sensation is often worse in the evening or at night. Occasionally, the arms are affected too.

Restless leg syndrome is also associated with involuntary jerking of the legs and arms, known as periodic limb movements in sleep.

Some people have the symptoms occasionally, while others have them every day. They can vary from mild to severe. In severe cases, restless legs syndrome can be very distressing and disrupt a person's daily activities. Women are more likely to be effected than men.

What causes restless legs syndrome?

Most of the time there's no obvious cause of restless legs syndrome. This is known as idiopathic or primary restless legs syndrome, and it can run in families.

Some neurologists believe the symptoms of restless legs syndrome may have something to do with how the body handles a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is involved in controlling muscle movement and may be responsible for the involuntary leg movements associated with restless legs syndrome.

In some cases, it is caused by an underlying health condition, such as  anaemia or kidney failure. There's also a link between restless legs syndrome and pregnancy. About 1 in 5 pregnant women will experience symptoms in the last three months of their pregnancy, although it's not clear exactly why this is. In such cases, restless legs syndrome usually disappears after the woman has given birth.


Mild cases of restless legs syndrome that have no underlying health condition may not require any treatment, other than making a few lifestyle changes, such as:

  • adopting good sleep habits – for example, following a regular bedtime ritual, sleeping regular hours, and avoiding alcohol and caffeine late at night
  • stopping smoking if you smoke
  • exercising regularly during the daytime

If your symptoms are more severe, you may need medication to regulate the levels of dopamine and iron in your body.


The symptoms of restless legs syndrome will usually disappear if it's possible to diagnose and treat an underlying cause. 

However, if the cause is unknown, the symptoms can sometimes get worse with time and severely affect the person's life. Restless legs syndrome isn't life threatening, but severe cases can severely disrupt sleep and trigger anxiety

and depression.

What is the Thyroid gland?

What is the Thyroid gland?

The Thyroid gland is an endocrine gland in the front of your neck, just below your Adam’s apple. It is made up of two lobes, each about the size of a plum cut in half. The two lobes lie on either side of the wind-pipe.

 It makes two hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) which are excreted into the blood. These hormones are required for all the cells in the body to work normally. In the cells and tissues of the body T4 is converted into T3. It is the T3 that is derived from T4 or excreted as T3 from the thyroid gland, which is biologically active and influences the activity of all the cells and tissues of the body.

What do thyroid hormones do?

The T3 which comes from the T4 and also that which is secreted directly by the thyroid gland influence the metabolism of body cells. It regulates the speed with which the body cells work.

What can go wrong?

  • Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) – not enough thyroxine is produced for the bodies needs.
  • Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) – too much thyroxine is produced for the bodies needs.

Hypothyroidism is the most common.

Thyroid disorders tend mainly to occur in women, although they can occur in anybody, even children and babies.

Common symptoms

Hypothyroidism: tiredness, feeling cold, slow heart rate, constipation, weight gain, poor concentration, depression.

Hyperthyroidism: weight loss, rapid heart rate, increased bowel movements or diarrhea, heat intolerance, anxiety and sometimes sore gritty eyes.

Sometimes there are very few symptoms. A simple blood test at your FAMILY MEDICAL CENTRE will confirm whether you have a thyroid disorder.


Other thyroid disorders

  • Thyroid eye disease – this affects people with an overactive thyroid due to Graves’ disease
  • Nodules or swelling – these lumps can stop the gland from working properly or may just be uncomfortable.
  • Thyroid cancer – this is very rare but it is important to get a doctor to check any lumps in the neck
  • Having a baby can sometimes trigger a thyroid disorder. This is known as post partum thyroiditis. It is usually a temporary but can return each time you have a baby.

How is the thyroid controlled?

In the brain there is a gland known as the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland senses the level of thyroid hormones in the blood and reacts by secreting a hormone called thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and this hormone activates the thyroid gland to produce more T4 and T3.

When the thyroid levels rise above normal the pituitary stops secreting TSH so that the thyroid stops working so hard and the production of T4 and T3 is reduced.

What causes thyroid disorders?

There are many different causes of thyroid disease but the most common cause is autoimmune thyroid disease - a self destructive process in which the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid cells as though they were foreign cells. In response the thyroid gland becomes either under or overactive. Thyroid disorders can run in families.


Thyroid disease is easily diagnosed by a simple blood test.


Most thyroid disorders are treated with medication. There are other treatments for conditions which cannot be treated with medication.

If you are concerned that you have any of the symptoms then contact the family medical centre to arrange to have a blood test.

The Core Team

Dawn Blythe

Clinic Director, Practice Midwife

Yvonne Evans

Clinic Director, Nurse

Dr. An Croonenborghs

General Practitioner

Jane Evans