Cholesterol is a fatty substance naturally present in every cell membrane in the body and is also used to manufacture hormones, vitamin D and bile. It is also present in the blood but can become a health risk if levels become too high. High blood cholesterol levels are a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD) because cholesterol can contribute to fatty deposits on the walls of blood vessels (atherosclerosis) which can become narrowed or even block causing a heart attack or stroke. In Australia, high cholesterol is anything over 5.5 mmol/L (total cholesterol) however this is for community screening purposes and individual CVD risk is best assessed by considering other risk factors such as age, family history, ethnicity, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, weight and waist measurements- your cholesterol target may be lower than 5.5 if you have other risk factors (and the lower the better). It's also more informative to do a complete blood lipid test which shows the levels of good HDL and bad LDL cholesterol as well as triglycerides. If you have high cholesterol, diet is a powerful (and often underappreciated) tool to get it down, and has other health benefits as well. For detailed information check out my book Eat to Beat Cholesterol (New Holland) available at http://www.greatideas.net.au/advanced_search_result.php?keywords=Eat+to+Beat+Cholesterol&osCsid=371b480ac5d363a5d3add56e48b4fe0b
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