What is Cholesterol?

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a type of fat that is found in your blood.

At healthy levels, cholesterol helps your body to work properly by making important hormones. There is only a problem with cholesterol when you have too much.

When your blood has too much cholesterol, it can start to stick to the walls of your arteries. If this happens then blood can’t get through and you can have a heart attack, a stroke or develop problems like angina.

Once cholesterol has lined your arteries, you cannot remove it, but you can stop it from getting worse. This is why it is so important to look after your cholesterol and to work on lowering your levels straight away if they are too high.

Luckily there is a lot you can do to have healthy cholesterol. One of the best ways to look after cholesterol is to look after what you eat. There are some foods that will increase cholesterol levels and others that will help to reduce them. See section "Healthy Eating".

LDL ("bad") cholesterol

For most people, LDL cholesterol should be less than 3.0mmol/L.

However, if you already have heart disease, for example if you have had a heart attack or surgery for heart disease or if you have other risk factors like high blood pressure, then you need to aim for even lower levels of LDL cholesterol.

  • If you already have heart disease, type 2 diabetes or organ damage from type 1 diabetes you should aim for a level of 1.8mmol/L or less.

  • If you do not have any of the problems listed above but you do have high levels of one of the other risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure you should aim for a level of 2.5mmol/L or less.


This information is reproduced with the permission of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute. Please visit  www.indi.ie for further information. 

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