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Understanding cholesterol can be a confusing business. What is it? What should your cholesterol be? And how can you change it? Here’s a straightforward guide to cholesterol.

Watch our video below to discover what cholesterol is and the difference between good and bad cholesterol. Or you can scroll down for more information on 'what is cholesterol?'

Watch our video below to find out more about the causes of high cholesterol.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a white waxy substance that’s found naturally in our blood and is needed for a range of vital body processes.

Most cholesterol is made in the liver and a small amount comes from the diet. Too much bad fat (saturated and trans fat) can increase bad cholesterol. Replacing bad fats with good fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated) can help manage cholesterol.

Cholesterol only becomes a problem when there is more than your body needs. It can cause the build up of fatty deposits in the blood vessels, reducing blood flow, and may then become a problem for your heart health.

Understand your cholesterol number

Understand your cholesterol number

Good cholesterol and bad cholesterol

There are 2 types of cholesterol:

infographTypes of cholesterol

To keep your heart healthy it’s important that your bad (LDL) cholesterol remains low and your good (HDL) cholesterol stays high.

Knowing your cholesterol levels

The only way to find out your cholesterol level is to have a blood test. Cholesterol is measured in units called millimoles per litre of blood, usually shortened to mmol/litre or mmol/L and your doctor can arrange for you to get it tested.

What is the recommended cholesterol level?

The recommended cholesterol level for the general public is below 5.5mmol/L. For people at higher risk of heart problems, the Heart Foundation recommends a cholesterol level of less than 4.0mmol/L.

What causes people to be affected by cholesterol?

Other things that affect your heart health are:

infograph Things that affect your heart health

What are the Symptoms of High Cholesterol?

High cholesterol is seen as a symptomless condition. You may feel no change in your body, even as your cholesterol levels rise, and this is why it is important to know how to look after your body and make healthy lifestyle choices to keep your cholesterol levels normal.

What should you do if you’re worried about your cholesterol?

While you need cholesterol for your body to function properly, high cholesterol may lead to serious conditions like heart disease, heart attack or even a stroke*. This is why it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle and know your cholesterol levels.

If you have any concerns about your cholesterol level or heart health, always contact your GP. For more specific dietary advice on cholesterol management, speak to an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

*Betterhealth Australia, 2014, accessed 28 July 2022 <>
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