atherosclerosisCholesterol helps your body build new cells, insulate nerves, and produce hormones. Normally, the liver makes all the cholesterol the body needs. But cholesterol also enters your body from food, such as animal-based foods like milk, eggs, and meat. Too much cholesterol in your body is a risk factor for heart disease.

Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance found among the lipids in the bloodstream and in all the body’s cells. It is important to the healthy functioning of our bodies.  It is needed to form cell membranes and hormones.

Cholesterol is carried through our blood by particles called lipoproteins: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). High levels of LDL cholesterol lead to atherosclerosis increasing the risk of heart attack and ischemic stroke.  HDL cholesterol reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease as it carries cholesterol away from the blood stream.

Estrogen, a female hormone, raises HDL cholesterol levels, partially explaining the lower risk of cardiovascular disease seen in premenopausal women.

Triglycerides are another fat in our bloodstream. Triglyceride is the most common type of fat in the body. Normal triglyceride levels vary by age and sex. But if you have heart disease or diabetes you are likely to have high levels.

High levels of triglyceride combined with high levels of LDL cholesterol speed up atherosclerosis increasing the risk for heart attack and stroke.

High cholesterol itself does not cause any symptoms, so many people are unaware that their cholesterol levels are too high. Therefore, it is important to find out what your cholesterol numbers are. Lowering cholesterol levels that are too high lessens the risk for developing heart disease and reduces the chance of a heart attack or dying of heart disease, even if you already have it.