Over-45s confused about cholesterol

Monday, February 25, 2013

70 percent of Australians over 45 don't know the difference between good and bad cholesterol, says a new survey.

The online survey, commissioned by AstraZeneca surveyed 1,000 people aged 45 and over about their general knowledge of cholesterol and whether they'd seen a doctor for a cholesterol blood test.

The survey found that 58 percent of those who hadn't had a cholesterol test didn't know the effects of HDL (good cholesterol), while 38 percent of people who had been tested were also unsure of its role. The survey also asked those who'd had cholesterol tests about their levels of HDL and LDL cholesterol, but one in three were unsure of their number.

"Australians, particularly in this age category, should 'know their numbers' as a crucial first step in managing their risk factors for chronic disease," said Dr Manny Noakes, senior nutrition and cholesterol expert for CSIRO in a press statement.

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"We should be aiming for higher levels of HDL and lower levels of LDL cholesterol in order to reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes. Blood pressure and blood sugar levels are also important."

Cholesterol is a type of fat used by the body for many mechanical processes such as the production of hormones, particularly sex hormones, and bile acids. It's carried around the body by lipoproteins, of which there are two types. The first, Low Density Lipoproteins (LDLs) are known as the "bad" cholesterol. When too much LDL cholesterol circulates in the blood, it can slowly build up in the artery wall and eventually lead to heart attack or stroke.

The High Density Lipoproteins (HDLs) on the other are known as the 'good' cholesterol as they help remove excess cholesterol from arteries and transport it back to the liver where it's metabolised.

Our body produces the cholesterol it needs for these processes, so any excess cholesterol in our blood can increase the risk of heart disease. If your cholesterol level is 6.5 mmol/L or greater your risk of heart disease is about 4 times greater than that of a person with a cholesterol level of 4 mmol/L.

However,on the upside, the survey also found that those who's had their cholesterol checked were making efforts to manage their levels. 54 percent were reducing fatty foods; 41 percent were increasing their fruit and vegetable intake and 36 percent were increasing exercise.

Avoid the Easter blow-out

Dr Noakes warns that overindulging on the wrong foods over Easter can send our cholesterol numbers upwards, even in only a week, and offers suggests these easy tips for keeping your them in check over the Easter period:

  • Choose seafood dishes over fatty sausages
  • Fill your plate with fruit and vegetables
  • Use cholesterol-lowering margarine instead of butter
  • Cut down on pastries, pies and cakes

"The good news is they you can start today and see changes quickly. It's important we ensure Australians are on a steady road to cholesterol recovery," Dr Noakes said.

If you are concerned about high cholesterol, talk to your doctor.

Have you had your cholesterol checked? Comment below.

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