What is cholesterol?
a type of fat (lipid) in your blood. Your cells need
cholesterol, and your body makes all it
needs. But you also get cholesterol from the food you eat.
If you have too much cholesterol, it starts to build up in your arteries.
(Arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart.) This is
called hardening of the arteries, or
atherosclerosis . It is the starting point for some heart and blood flow problems. The buildup can narrow the arteries and make it harder for blood to flow through them. The buildup can also lead to dangerous blood clots and inflammation that can cause heart attacks and strokes.
There are different types of cholesterol.
- LDL is the
"bad" cholesterol. It's the kind that can raise your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
- HDL is the "good" cholesterol. It's the kind that is linked to a lower risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Why does cholesterol matter?
Your cholesterol levels can help your doctor find out your risk for having a heart attack or stroke. But it's not just about your cholesterol. Your doctor uses your cholesterol levels plus other things to calculate your risk. These include:
- Your blood pressure.
- Whether or not you have diabetes.
- Your age, sex, and race.
- Whether or not you smoke.
What affects cholesterol levels?
Many things can
affect cholesterol levels, including:
- The foods you eat. Eating too
saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol can raise
- Being overweight. This may lower HDL ("good") cholesterol.
- Being inactive. Not exercising may lower
HDL ("good") cholesterol.
- Age. Cholesterol starts to rise after age 20.
- Family history. If family members have or had high cholesterol, you may also have it.
How is cholesterol tested?
need a blood test to check your cholesterol.
A cholesterol test, also called a lipid panel, measures all of the fats in your blood,
total, LDL, and
High cholesterol levels don't make you feel sick. So the blood test is the only way to know your cholesterol levels.