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Cholesterol testing introduced to Unichem, Life Pharmacies

Take your heart in for a ‘WOF’ this World Health Day

Cholesterol testing introduced to Unichem and Life Pharmacies

New Zealand – Thursday 31 March - Green Cross Health, the company behind New Zealand’s largest network of pharmacies, is urging people to take better care of their hearts as World Health Day approaches.

Selected Unichem and Life Pharmacies are now offering customers cholesterol tests in pharmacy in an effort to raise awareness of unhealthy cholesterol levels and heart disease among people living in New Zealand.

The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) World Health Day on April 7 is the perfect opportunity to take stock of your health and dedicate a few minutes to understanding how your cholesterol levels contribute to your overall wellbeing, Green Cross Health Head of Professional Services Alison Van Wyk says.

“We take our cars for regular Warrant of Fitness checks, but many of us are less vigilant when it comes to our own health - despite the potential consequences being much more severe than a broken down car,

“By introducing cholesterol testing in-store, we hope to raise awareness of this issue, make it easy for people to get an indication of their cholesterol levels and, if needed, to be referred on for further medical advice. It’s time to take care of your heart”.

According to the Heart Foundation, almost one in 20 New Zealand adults are affected by heart disease and every 90 minutes a New Zealander dies from heart disease, which can be caused by too much cholesterol in the bloodstream.

Having too much cholesterol in your bloodstream increases your chance of having a heart attack or stroke, but aside from having a test, there is no way of knowing whether or not you have it.

The convenient in-pharmacy test gives people an indication if their cholesterol is at a healthy level and no appointment is necessary.

Pharmacists have been trained to carry out the simple finger-prick test and to refer customers on to seek advice from a GP if necessary.

“Our pharmacists are trained to carry out many convenient health tests and are in an ideal position to offer practical care and advice to help people improve and manage their health conditions, whether through over the counter medication, lifestyle changes or referring them on to a GP,” Ms Van Wyk says.

While 75 per cent of cholesterol is produced by the liver, 25 per cent comes from what you eat with animal foods like dairy, eggs and meats typically high in cholesterol. Saturated fats are also a big culprit, stimulating the liver to produce more cholesterol.

Getting to a healthy weight should be the first step to managing cholesterol, but should be accompanied by regular exercise, a healthy diet including vegetables, beans, legumes, and good carbohydrates, giving up smoking and reducing stress where possible. All of these lifestyle changes are recommended by the Heart Foundation.

“Knowing your numbers and understanding what they mean is an important part of looking after your heart health,” Ms Van Wyk says.

Tests cost $39.99 each and take approximately 10 minutes, including a brief consultation from the pharmacist.

Father of two turns his life around after cholesterol wake-up call

Taranaki father of two Stephen Houghton knows all too well the dangers of living with high cholesterol.

At just 39-years-old Stephen weighed 151kgs and was already taking regular heart and cholesterol medication when his doctor told him he was pre-diabetic. Stephen also suffered with sleep apnoea and faced the daunting prospect of having to use a machine to sleep at night if it didn’t improve.

“All this prompted me to make some serious changes if I didn’t want to be dead within 10 years. One day I just said, ‘This is wrong, I have a family that needs me and I’m not going to let them down,” Mr Houghton says.

Now aged 46, he weighs 88kgs, (a whopping 63kg weight loss) and represents New Zealand in triathlons for his age group.

“Looking back, I ate too much - all the bad foods all the time like fatty meats, biscuits, fizzy drinks, lots of bread. I drank too much and I didn’t exercise at all. I found work a good excuse to justify not exercising and I had a very stressful and responsible job,” he says.

“If only other people who find themselves in the same situation could see that they are missing out on so much quality of life.”

Early prevention of a heart-related illness is the most important thing, Mr Houghton says, as once it’s damaged it cannot be reversed.

Cholesterol testing in pharmacies will provide a welcome and convenient alternative for those that might otherwise not consider a test, he says.

“It’s a wonderful initiative as I’m sure there will be a lot of people that will feel more comfortable in that environment and find the convenience more appealing. No doubt many will get a result they may not be expecting, but then they are able to do something about it.”

“You only have one heart to look after; it’s not hard and can be fun. In my case all it took was a sensible balanced diet and regular exercise”

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