4364.0.55.001 - National Health Survey: First Results, 2014-15  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 08/12/2015   
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Cholesterol is a type of fat that circulates in the blood. It is essential for many metabolic processes, including the production of hormones and building cells[1]. Too much cholesterol in the bloodstream can lead to fatty deposits building up in the blood vessels, making it harder for blood to flow and increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke[2].

In 2014-15, 7.1% of all Australians (1.6 million people) reported having high cholesterol. This was similar to 2011-12 when 6.8% of the population had high cholesterol.

As with many health conditions, the prevalence of high cholesterol increases with age, with around one in four (25.2%) people aged 75 years and over reporting having high cholesterol in 2014-15. Overall, the same proportion of males and females reported having high cholesterol (7.1%).

Graph Image for Proportion of persons with high cholesterol, 2001 to 2014-15

Source(s): National Health Survey: First Results, 2014-15

2011-12 biomedical information

For people with high cholesterol there are often no symptoms or signs - they can have high cholesterol yet feel well[2]. In 2011-12, biomedical information was collected for the first time by ABS, including a range of cholesterol tests. Results were used to determine indicators of high or abnormal levels of cholesterol across the population.

In 2011-12, one in three Australians aged 18 years and over (32.8% or 5.6 million people) had abnormal or high total cholesterol levels according to their blood test results (total cholesterol greater than or equal to 5.5 mmol/L). Yet only 10.1% of this group self-reported having high cholesterol as a current and long-term health condition. This suggests that the majority of people with high cholesterol results were either unaware that they had the condition or did not consider it to be a long-term or current problem.

For more information see Australian Health Survey: Biomedical Results for Chronic Diseases, 2011-12 (cat. no. 4364.0.55.005).

1. Better Health Channel, 2013, Cholesterol, <http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Cholesterol_explained>; last accessed 01/12/2015.
2. Heart Foundation, Blood cholesterol, <https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/your-heart/know-your-risks/blood-cholesterol>; last accessed 01/12/2015.