The dangers of high cholesterol are not being taken seriously by a "worrying" amount of people in the UK, according to a study.
Researchers found fewer women than men have taken a test for cholesterol, which increases the risk of heart disease.
The survey for Flora, the spread manufacturer, shows 72% of women have never had a cholesterol test compared with 60% of men, despite more women having raised levels of the soft, wax-like substance.
It is found in every cell in the body, but it becomes a problem when levels in the blood are too high.
Despite the risk of heart disease, the 2,000 people questioned revealed a significant proportion of the public are unaware of the ways in which they can reduce their cholesterol levels, like improving their diet and increasing activity levels.
According to the study for Flora pro.activ, more than one in five people (22%) spend at least 10 hours of the waking day sitting down.
Over a third (36%) have no idea what illnesses or conditions run in their families, even though they can have a strong impact on their own health, and 17% wrongly think that having high cholesterol causes weight gain when it may not cause any noticeable symptoms.
It found 42% of people did not know that raised cholesterol can lead to a deterioration in cardiovascular health and only 64% of those aged over 45 have had a cholesterol test, despite levels increasing rapidly at that age.
Almost a fifth (18%) of over-45s - those most at risk of high cholesterol - say they never take any exercise.
Laura Tari, nutritionist for Flora pro.activ, said: "Heart disease is the main cause of death in the UK, and one of the key risk factors is raised cholesterol.
"It's worrying that so many people - and especially women - don't seem to understand the link. They may consider it just a man's problem, when its an important issue for women as well.
"It's actually very easy to take steps to reduce your cholesterol levels. Firstly, you need to find out what your level is, through a simple test with your GP or local pharmacist.
"If you do have raised cholesterol levels, then some gentle daily exercise and moving to a healthier diet will go a long way to helping you."
The survey marks National Cholesterol Week, which starts tomorrow.Reuse content