Many people are utterly clueless when it comes to high cholesterol and its effects.

One in three adults think that high cholesterol makes you fat and a quarter of them believe it gives you cancer. Fifteen percent believe cholesterol is the reason why you get indigestion. And even more shocking, more than 70 percent of heart patients have no idea if they even have high cholesterol or not.

It's vital to be aware of your blood cholesterol levels since it's an important risk factor for coronary heart disease which is one of the top 5 most common causes of death in most Westernized countries. So-called 'bad' cholesterol can build up in your arteries and form a hard deposit that makes your arteries less flexible.

Healthy adults should have 3.3. millimoles per liter or less. If you are a diabetic or a smoker, you should maintain a cholesterol level of 1.8 millimoles per liter or below.

You should check your cholesterol levels every five years or so and if you have high levels of cholesterol, you need to check it more often: every 6 to 12 months with a blood test.

The best way to treat high cholesterol is to watch your diet. Avoid saturated and transfats. Saturated fats contain LDL cholesterol which is the 'bad cholesterol'. Many dairy products such as butter, cream, cheese contain high levels of saturated fats as do coconut oil, palmseed oil, chocolate and fatty meat. Transfat or trans fatty acids appear in many processed foods such as cookies, crackers and cakes, as well as deep fried food like doughnuts and fries. Look for the label 'shortening' or 'hydrogenated' vegetable oil as a telltale sign of transfats. Regular aerobic exercise wil also help reduce your high cholesterol too.

It's worth making these lifestyle changes: for every one percent reduction in your cholesterol level, you can decrease your risk of coronary heart disease by one percent too.

There are medications which aid in the lowering of cholesterol. If you suspect you have high cholesterol, discuss treatment options with your doctor as many of these cholesterol lowering medications have potential side effects.

STATINS: these work with your liver to prevent cholesterol from forming. Lipitor and Crestor are well-known brands

SELECTIVE CHOLESTEROL ABSORPTION INHIBITORS: stop the intestines from absorbing cholesterol effectively. Questran and Colestid are popular brands.

NIACIN: works with your liver to affect the producion of blood fats. Niacin has several well documented side effects and may raise blood sugar levels so it is rarely prescribed for diabetics.