One in two Belgians with a high cholesterol level in the blood does not adjust his or her lifestyle. This should become apparent on Friday from an online survey by iVox, commissioned by drug manufacturer Novartis, among 1,000 Belgians. However, high cholesterol is an important risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease.

    Cardiovascular diseases are, together with cancer, the most common cause of death in our country. Yet half of Belgians underestimate how many people die of cardiovascular disease each year. This underestimation means that people do not always take the necessary action.

    Not known as a risk factor

    High cholesterol is also often forgotten as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. When respondents were asked about all risk factors for cardiovascular disease, only 35 percent put ‘high cholesterol’ in their top three. Among respondents older than 55 years, this percentage increased to 42 percent. Overweight, smoking and high blood pressure are recognized by the respondents as risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease.


    Many people do not know their cholesterol level. In fact, everyone should have their cholesterol tested at least once in their life.

    Professor Mathias Vrolix, cardiologist East Limburg Hospital

    Professor Mathias Vrolix, cardiologist at the Oost-Limburg Hospital, is not surprised by the figures. “This is what we see every day in our practice. Many people do not know their cholesterol level, while they do know whether they have high or low blood pressure. In fact, everyone should have their cholesterol tested at least once in their life.”

    When people are aware of their high cholesterol levels, only half change their lifestyle to bring the level down. 46 percent say they are not very concerned about their high cholesterol. The majority of the respondents (85 percent) indicate that they do not notice anything about their excessive content.

    The Belgian Cardiological League gives on her website some tips for lowering cholesterol:

    Since our diet generally contains too much fat, a return to a healthier diet in terms of fat content is required in any case.

    It is necessary to eat less fat, especially animal fats (meat, full-fat dairy, cheese) and avoid solid fats at room temperature (butter, some margarines). These so-called saturated fats raise cholesterol levels.

    On the other hand, vegetable oils and soft margarines are recommended, they lower cholesterol levels (don’t overdo it, because the goal is to limit total fat consumption).

    Regular exercise (30 minutes a day if possible) and not smoking are important to keep your arteries healthy.

    However, it is not easy to follow the above tips, as it turns out in practice. “Belgians like to enjoy themselves, it is difficult to live a more frugal life,” explains Professor Vrolix. “Still, it is important to avoid the ‘bad’ cholesterol, the LDL cholesterol. Healthcare providers can also do more to guide their patients towards a life with less cholesterol.”

    A sugar tax could also help, according to the professor. “We see that the number of people who smoke has decreased over the years, partly due to social pressure and a higher cost price. A sugar tax would be a step in the same right direction.”