Cholesterol is a fatty substance known as a lipid and is vital for the normal functioning of the body. It is mainly made by the liver but can also be found in some foods. Cholesterol is carried in your blood by proteins, and when the two combine they are called lipoproteins. There are harmful and protective lipoproteins known as LDL and HDL, or ‘bad’ and ‘good’ cholesterol.
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): LDL carries cholesterol from your liver to the cells that need it. If there is too much cholesterol for the cells to use, it can build up in the artery walls, leading to disease of the arteries. For this reason, LDL cholesterol is known as “bad cholesterol”.
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL): HDL carries cholesterol away from the cells and back to the liver, where it is either broken down or passed out of the body as a waste product. For this reason, it is referred to as “good cholesterol” and higher levels are better.
High cholesterol itself does not cause any symptoms, but it increases the risk of serious health conditions, increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke. Causes include having an unhealthy diet high in saturated fat, smoking, having diabetes or high blood pressure and having a family history of stroke or heart disease. Approximately six out of every 10 adults (around 380,000 people in Devon) have raised Cholesterol, and healthy adults should aim for total cholesterol of 5mmol/l or less and LDL-Cholesterol of 3mmol/l or less. Reducing the populations LDL-Cholesterol by 1mmol/l has the potential to reduce CHD by 19%.