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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 January, 2004, 00:05 GMT
Cholesterol confusion revealed
Cholesterol test
Two thirds of adults have unhealthy cholesterol levels
Most people are unaware that a high cholesterol level is a leading risk factor for heart disease, a survey has shown.

The charity Cholesterol UK found only 5% were aware of the danger, even though two out of three adults over 45 have unhealthy cholesterol levels.

The survey of 1,000 adults found 90% said they "always" or "generally" ate a healthy diet.

But 60% admitted they only ate low fat foods once or twice a month.

Most people who are affected by CHD have more than one risk factor
Professor Sir Charles George, British Heart Foundation
Cholesterol UK, a joint initiative by the charities Heart UK and the British Cardiac Patients' Association.

It warns its survey shows people are not adhering to healthy eating plans which could protect against coronary heart disease, which kills around 125,000 in the UK each year.

High cholesterol is particularly dangerous for people with diabetes or for those who are obese. It is also a cause of strokes.

While many can benefit from a healthier diet, the charity says some people are genetically predisposed to have raised cholesterol and those with particularly high levels may need to take cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Take-away habits

The survey found 32% of those questioned eat chips or crisps once or twice a week.

Cholesterol UK said if that pattern was repeated among the UK population of 40 million adults, that would mean 12 million people did the same.

Nineteen per cent - which would equate to over 7.5 million people - eat ready meals once or twice a week, and 2% (almost one million) eat them every day.

Fifteen per cent of people admitted they ate take-aways once or twice a week, which could mean up to six million also indulge.

Two per cent - one million - said they never ate fruit or vegetables.

Dr John Reckless, of Cholesterol UK, said: "This survey reveals the public is deeply confused about the true causes of heart disease and the link between diet and health.

"Campaigns about cigarette smoking and being overweight seem to be hitting home, which is great.

"But the major risk factor - raised cholesterol - is still not recognised by many people."

He added: "Most people can lower their cholesterol level through a few simply changes to their eating, exercise and lifestyle habits. It's clear that many people think they are eating a healthy heart diet when they are not."

Cholesterol UK called for government action to improve diet and lifestyle.


Professor Sir Charles George, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "There are several major risk factors for CHD including smoking, obesity, inactivity and high blood cholesterol.

"Most people who are affected by CHD have more than one risk factor."

"Cholesterol levels in the UK are high on average, and there is clearly more to be done in terms of educating the public about heart health issues."

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Paul Burstow said: "No wonder obesity levels are rocketing when people are not being given the information they need on healthy diets."

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