"It's 5.8." I say to Robert Snell, back for his cholesterol result and BP check today.
"?" He replies.
(I've got to develop a better inerrogatory look, they're all doing it now!)
"Well," I expound, "the ideal is supposed to be 5.0 or lower, though the UK average I believe is around 5.7 still."
"?" Still obviously none the wiser.
Now, I don't really mind, but Robert is intelligent and has access to IT, AND came to ask for a cholesterol test in the first place. So why ask for a test if you don't know what you are going to do with the result?
We rehearse the implications of a high cholesterol level and review his diet. Fat intake seems fine, and he is actually counting the calories in an attempt to loose weight. His blood pressure remains a little high on minimal medication, but even with this his cholesterol level does not (according to our risk calculator anyway) give him a significant increase in heart disease risk. Having adjusted his BP meds we agree there is no value in treating his modestly elevated cholesterol and he departs, I hope, reassured.
It's an emerging trend this. People see that nice lady on the telly telling them to get their cholesterol done, or, for blokes, their wives do and tell them to get it checked. Up they come to request the test with no real thought for what happens next. It's as though having the test will, totem-like, remove all fear of cardiac disease for ever after, almost regardless of what the result turns out to be.
I'm not at all sure that blokes in particular use the knowledge they gain at all, unless it's as carte blanche to pop in to the nearest garage shop for that pork pie on the way home, since they have now had the test. Now Robert doesn't actually look the pork pie type, and anyway Linda will doubtless subject him to the third degree when he gets home, and she will almost certainly know more about it than he does.
But now at least he "knows his number".