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Last Updated: Friday, 6 February, 2004, 14:39 GMT
Millions 'have high cholesterol'
High cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease
Almost half of all adults have dangerously high levels of cholesterol, according to a survey.

But the National Diet and Nutrition Survey of 2,000 people suggests the figure may be even higher for over 50s.

It found 59% of men and 75% of women between the ages of 50 and 64 have too much cholesterol in their blood.

The fatty substance clogs up the arteries and is a major cause of heart disease. Experts believe poor diet and a lack of exercise is to blame.

A study, published last month, suggested many Briton's are confused when it comes to cholesterol.

It found that just 5% know that high cholesterol can increase the risk of heart disease.

Drug study

The findings come as another study backs up the case for using statins to treat high cholesterol.

Researchers at the University of Leeds have found that statins, which are taken by more than a million people in the UK, may also keep the heart healthy.

We advise anyone concerned about their blood cholesterol level to speak to their doctor
Dr Tim Bowker,
British Heart Foundation
The study, published in the journal Cardiovascular Research, found statins act directly on the heart and prevent the structural damage that can cause disease.

In a failing heart, structural cells or fibroblasts that shape it can multiply and move around.

This stops the heart from working as effectively as it should and causes permanent damage.

"Statins stop this process," said Dr Karen Porter, who led the study.

Meanwhile, the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, which was carried out for the Food Standards Agency, also confirms that more and more people are becoming obese.

It found that 25% of men and 20% of women are now classed as obese.

This compares to 8% and men and 12% of women in 1987, when the survey was last carried out.

'Not enough exercise'

Almost 1,700 people who took part in the survey also kept an activity diary for a week taking note of how much exercise they did.

Researchers found that just 35% of men and 26% of women did enough physical exercise.

The Department of Health recommends that adults do at least 30 minutes moderate or above activity on five or more days a week.

Dr Tim Bowker, associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation, said more needs to be done to educate the public.

"A high level of blood cholesterol is one of the biggest single risk factors for developing coronary heart disease, which causes 125,000 deaths a year.

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

"We advise anyone concerned about their blood cholesterol level to speak to their doctor or practice nurse when they are next in their GP's surgery."


SEE ALSO:
Cholesterol confusion revealed
15 Jan 04  |  Health
Why we get high cholesterol
17 Apr 03  |  Health


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