Cholesterol is a member of the group of substances known as lipids or fats, and measuring levels of cholesterol are an important marker of health. A common mistake is for people to say that ‘cholesterol is bad for you’. However, we need cholesterol to maintain normal function and so what is really meant is that if levels of cholesterol remain above normal, and particularly the low density lipid (LDL) constituent part of cholesterol, known as 'bad cholesterol' – this is associated with a higher risk of vein clogging and heart disease.

The experts in the UK on lipids work from the Super-Regional Assay Service (SAS) laboratories. The network of SAS centres for cardiovascular biomarkers was set up in response to an increasing demand for better tests and to understand the implications for patient management. The SAS centre for Cardiovascular Biomarkers is based in the Lipid Laboratory, Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust. The Department has a long-standing interest in the management of lipid disorders including familial hypercholesterolaemia. This section is therefore headed by the Director, Dr Devaki Nair, who is the clinical lead for lipids and cardiovascular risk prevention.