Cholesterol is a fat-like material that provides a structure for a body’s cells. A person’s liver makes most of the cholesterol a body needs, but a person can also get some from foods. Too much can cause a sticky substance (plaque) to build up in blood vessels. This plaque can block blood vessels and cause heart attacks and strokes.
But I feel okay.
Most people with high cholesterol feel healthy and don’t have symptoms. The only way to levels are high is to have cholesterol levels checked.
Cholesterol is checked with a blood test. The test works best if you don’t eat or drink anything for at least 8 hours before the test.
Cholesterol travels through the blood on proteins called “lipoproteins.” Two types of lipoproteins carry cholesterol throughout the body:
LDL (low-density lipoprotein), sometimes called “bad” cholesterol, makes up most of your body’s cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol raise your risk for heart disease and stroke.
HDL (high-density lipoprotein),or “good”cholesterol, absorbs cholesterol and carries it back to the liver. The liver then flushes it from the body. High levels of HDL cholesterol can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
When your body has too much LDL cholesterol, the LDL cholesterol can build up on the walls of your blood vessels. This buildup is called “plaque.”
As your blood vessels build up plaque over time, the insides of the vessels narrow. This narrowing blocks blood flow to and from your heart and other organs. When blood flow to the heart is blocked, it can cause angina (chest pain) or a heart attack.
Lowering Your Risk
If you have high LDL cholesterol levels, your health care team may recommend cholesterol-lowering medicine and lifestyle changes to lower your risk for heart disease and stroke.
If you have low HDL cholesterol levels, talk to your doctor about lifestyle changes that may help raise your levels.
Cholesterolexternal icon—American Heart Association
High Blood Cholesterol: What You Need to Knowexternal icon—National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute