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Cholesterol

Cholesterol is an important type of fat (lipid) that is made by the body. It is needed for the body to function. It also is found in foods that are made from animal products (meat and dairy products).

Cells need cholesterol to function. But excess cholesterol in the blood builds up in blood vessels and may lead to hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), heart disease, and stroke. People who have diabetes are at higher risk for atherosclerosis.

There are two main forms of cholesterol:

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is called "bad cholesterol." Most efforts to lower cholesterol are aimed at reducing levels of LDL.
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is called "good cholesterol." It can help remove excess cholesterol from the blood vessels.

A person's cholesterol level can be checked with a blood test.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology
Specialist Medical Reviewer Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Current as of March 12, 2014

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.