Many Americans do not understand the role that cholesterol—a fat-like substance found in all cells of the body—plays in heart health and heart disease. When there is too much cholesterol in the blood, cholesterol can build up on artery walls and slow or stop blood flow to the heart. Here's what you need to know...
The liver produces cholesterol. We also get cholesterol from what we eat, especially meat and dairy products.
To understand high blood cholesterol it helps to learn about cholesterol, a waxy, fat-like substance found throughout the body.
Our bodies need some cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help digest foods. Our bodies make all the cholesterol we need. However, cholesterol also is found in some of the foods we eat.
Cholesterol travels through the bloodstream in small packages called lipoproteins. These packages are made of fat (lipids) on the inside and proteins on the outside. Two main kinds of lipoproteins carry cholesterol throughout the body:
- Low-density lipoproteins (LDL): LDL cholesterol sometimes is called "bad" cholesterol. A high LDL level leads to a buildup of cholesterol in your arteries. (Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to your body.)
- High-density lipoproteins (HDL): HDL cholesterol sometimes is called "good" cholesterol. This is because HDL carries cholesterol from other parts of your body back to your liver. Your liver removes the cholesterol from your body.
Having healthy levels of both types of lipoproteins is important.
High Blood Cholesterol and Triglycerides
High blood cholesterol is a condition in which you have too much cholesterol in your blood. By itself, the condition usually has no signs or symptoms. So, many people don't know that their cholesterol levels are too high.
People who have high blood cholesterol have a greater chance of getting coronary heart disease, also called coronary artery disease. Coronary heart disease is a condition in which plaque builds up inside the coronary (heart) arteries. Plaque is made up of cholesterol, fat, calcium, and other substances found in the blood. When plaque builds up in the arteries, the condition is called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis can lead to serious problems, including heart attack, stroke, or even death. The higher the level of LDL cholesterol in your blood, the GREATER your chance is of developing heart disease. The higher the level of HDL cholesterol in your blood, the LOWER your chance is of developing heart disease.
Understanding Cholesterol and Heart Health. (n.d.). Retrieved May 30, 2017, from https://medlineplus.gov/magazine/issues/summer12/articles/summer12pg4.html