According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2011–12 Australian Health Survey (AHS):
- 63% of adults (8.5 million people) were living with dyslipidaemia. This included 57% with uncontrolled blood lipids and 6.6% with normal blood lipid levels who were taking lipid-modifying medication.
- 33% of adults had raised levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, 23% had low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol and 14% had raised levels of triglycerides. In addition, 33% had a total cholesterol level that was considered high (AIHW 2015).
- Men (64%, or 4.2 million) and women (63%, or 4.3 million) had similar levels of dyslipidaemia in 2011–12.
- The proportion of adults with dyslipidaemia increased with age, from 34% among those aged 18–24 (31% men, 36% women) to a peak of 81% at age 65–74 (78% men, 84% women) (Figure 1).
Blood lipids are fats in the blood and include cholesterol and triglycerides. Cholesterol is a fatty substance produced by the liver and carried by the blood to supply material for cell walls and hormones. Triglycerides play an important role in metabolism as an energy source and in helping to transfer dietary fat throughout the body.
Dyslipidaemia (abnormal blood lipids) can contribute to the development of atherosclerosis, a build-up of fatty deposits in the blood vessels which may lead to the development of cardiovascular diseases. Dyslipidaemia is a risk factor for chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease and stroke (AIHW 2017).
In the most recent large-scale biomedical survey of the Australian population, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2011–12 Australian Health Survey (AHS), a person was considered to be living with dyslipidaemia if they had one or more of the following:
- total cholesterol ≥ 5.5 mmol/L
- LDL cholesterol ≥ 3.5 mmol/L
- HDL cholesterol < 1.0 mmol/L for men and < 1.3 mmol/L for women
- triglycerides ≥ 2.0 mmol/L
- taking lipid-modifying medication (ABS 2013).
Sufficient physical activity and a healthy diet help maintain healthy blood cholesterol levels. People with dyslipidaemia may also be treated with lipid-modifying medicines such as statins.
Figure 1: Adults living with dyslipidaemia by age and sex, 2011–12