"I don’t think there’s been a substance so well linked as cholesterol and heart disease," says Dr. Jacques Genest, a researcher in cardiovascular diseases at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal. "The data is just overwhelming that the relationship between cholesterol and heart disease is causal and direct."
The top advice to reduce cholesterol – and improve your health overall – is what Dr. Genest calls the "top five": don't smoke, eat well, exercise, reduce stress and maintain a healthy weight. In fact, 83 percent of heart attacks could have been prevented by diet and lifestyle changes, says Dr. David J.A. Jenkins, professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto. But that doesn't mean researchers have solved the puzzle of exactly what cholesterol does and how it works. Here are some of the latest interesting findings – and further questions researchers are working on.