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High blood cholesterol is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease and possibly some types of stroke. It is one of the main causes of the process by which the blood vessels that supply the heart and other parts of the body become clogged.
Total blood cholesterol levels above 5.5 mmol/L are an indication of a greatly increased risk of developing coronary heart disease. Levels above 6.5 mmol/L are considered to indicate extremely high risk.
For most people, saturated fat in the diet is regarded as the main factor that raises blood cholesterol levels. Cholesterol in foods can also raise blood cholesterol levels, but less than saturated fat does. Genetic factors can affect blood cholesterol - some people have high cholesterol levels regardless of their saturated fat and cholesterol dietary intake and are at increased risk from coronary heart disease.
For more information on diet as a risk factor, go to Nutrition.
For more information see Chapter 3 of Australia's Health 2010.