About high cholesterol

Learn about high cholesterol and its causes. 

What is high cholesterol?

Blood cholesterol is a natural fat. Your body needs it to function properly. Blood cholesterol helps to make:

  • hormones, like estrogen and testosterone
  • cell membranes (the covering of cells) and vitamin D

Your liver makes about 80% of the cholesterol in your body. The rest comes from animal-based foods or drinks, such as:

  • fish
  • meat
  • poultry
  • egg yolks
  • milk products

Eating foods that are high in cholesterol can affect some people's blood cholesterol. Fatty foods are the biggest influence on your cholesterol levels. Having too much cholesterol in your blood is a risk factor for heart attack and stroke.

There is both good and bad cholesterol in your blood.

Good cholesterol:

  • can lower your risk of getting heart disease
  • moves cholesterol away from the arteries to the liver, which gets rid of it

Bad cholesterol:

  • makes arteries narrower by lining them with plaque
    • plaque is a mix of fats, calcium and cholesterol
  • increases your risk of getting angina, heart attack and stroke
  • moves cholesterol into blood vessels where it may settle as plaque
  • reduces the amount of oxygen and blood flowing to the heart, brain and other organs because of clogged arteries

It is best to have high levels of good cholesterol and low levels of bad cholesterol.

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