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The body naturally needs cholesterol as it plays an important role in building cells and producing certain hormones. Cholesterol is carried in the blood by lipoproteins. The two main types are HDL and LDL.

High-density lipoprotein (HDL)

HDL cholesterol is considered the “good” cholesterol, so higher levels of this are actually better. HDL is thought to carry the “bad” cholesterol back to the liver, where it is broken down and filtered from the body.

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL)

LDL cholesterol is considered the “bad” cholesterol, as excess amounts can build up on the walls of the arteries, forming plaques that narrow the arteries. This is known as atherosclerosis. Narrowed arteries make it harder for blood to flow to the heart and other organs, increasing the risk of heart attack, stroke and peripheral artery disease.

The risk

Having high cholesterol levels increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases like coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Lowering your levels can help control the risk of these diseases developing.

High cholesterol generally has no symptoms, so many people are unaware that they even have it. That’s why it’s important for cholesterol levels to be checked regularly by a healthcare professional.

High levels of cholesterol do not have one single cause, but there are certain risk factors. Some of these can be controlled and some cannot.

Controllable risk factors include smoking, lack of physical activity, being overweight or obese, and an unhealthy diet of foods high in cholesterol and saturated fat.

Age, family history, medical conditions and medications can also have an impact on cholesterol levels, so speak to your doctor about what levels are right for you.

What is HRI doing?

The Clinical Research Group is focusing on children and young adults with risk factors for early heart disease such as high levels of cholesterol, and on how to prevent the development of atherosclerosis. Early detection and prevention may save hundreds of thousands of lives from cardiovascular disease each year.

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