What is cholesterol? Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is found in the body’s cells. Our bodies make cholesterol in order to make other substances like vitamin D or hormones. It also makes substances to help us digest food. Cholesterol is also found in the food we eat. Foods that we eat that contain cholesterol include poultry, meat, and dairy products. When we eat foods like this that are high in saturated and trans-fats, our livers produce even more cholesterol. When our bodies produce too much cholesterol, plaque develops in the walls of the arteries. This can lead to serious health conditions such as blood clots, stroke, or heart attack.
There are two types of cholesterol: good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. Good cholesterol is also known as HDL cholesterol, or high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Bad cholesterol is also known as LDL cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. If we have too much or too little of either good or bad cholesterol, it can put us as risk for serious conditions such as coronary heart disease, heart attack or stroke. Therefore, you should be aware of your HDL and LDL cholesterol levels and discuss with your doctor how to properly manage them.
LDL cholesterol is known as “bad” cholesterol. This is due to the fact that LDL cholesterol causes a buildup of plaque in the artery walls. With a buildup of plaque, the arteries can become blocked and a condition can develop called atherosclerosis. Blood clots can form and if they block a narrowed artery, this can result in a heart attack or stroke. A person can also develop peripheral artery disease.
HDL cholesterol is known as “good” cholesterol. This is due to the fact that it helps remove LDL cholesterol from the arteries. A good level of HDL cholesterol aids in protecting our bodies from having heart attacks and strokes. On the other hand, a low level of HDL cholesterol may increase the risk of developing heart disease.
It is important to keep track of your cholesterol levels. People who are 20 years old or older should have their cholesterol levels measured at least once every five years. Testing for cholesterol usually involves having a blood test called a lipid profile. This includes testing for total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.