What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a type of lipid. It’s a waxy, fat-like substance that your liver produces naturally. It’s vital for the formation of cell membranes, certain hormones, and vitamin D.
Cholesterol doesn’t dissolve in water, so it can’t travel through your blood on its own. To help transport cholesterol, your liver produces lipoproteins.
Lipoproteins are particles made from fat and protein. They carry cholesterol and triglycerides, another type of lipid, through your bloodstream. The two major forms of lipoprotein are low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
LDL cholesterol is any cholesterol carried by low-density lipoproteins. If your blood contains too much LDL cholesterol, you may be diagnosed with high cholesterol. Without treatment, high cholesterol may lead to many health issues, including heart attack and stroke.
High cholesterol rarely causes symptoms in the beginning. That’s why it’s important to get your cholesterol levels checked on a regular basis.
High cholesterol symptoms
In most cases, high cholesterol is a “silent” condition. It typically doesn’t cause any symptoms. Many people don’t even realize they have high cholesterol until they develop serious complications, such as a heart attack or stroke.
That’s why routine cholesterol screening is important. If you’re 20 years or older, ask your doctor if you should have routine cholesterol screening. Learn how this screening could potentially save your life.https://4cfed8fe04698b24a6f0e8c2470191c9.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
Causes of high cholesterol
Eating too many foods that are high in cholesterol, saturated fats, and trans fats may increase your risk of developing high cholesterol. Living with obesity can also increase your risk. Other lifestyle factors that can contribute to high cholesterol include inactivity and smoking.
Your genetics can also affect your chances of developing high cholesterol. Genes are passed down from parents to children. Certain genes instruct your body on how to process cholesterol and fats. If your parents have high cholesterol, you may be at a greater risk of having it too.
In rare cases, high cholesterol is caused by familial hypercholesterolemia. This genetic disorder prevents your body from removing LDL. According to the National Human Genome Research InstituteTrusted Source, most adults with this condition have total cholesterol levels above 300 milligrams per deciliter and LDL levels above 200 milligrams per deciliter.
Other health conditions, such as diabetes and hypothyroidism, may also increase your risk of developing high cholesterol and related complications.
LDL cholesterol, or “bad cholesterol”
LDL cholesterol is often called “bad cholesterol.” It carries cholesterol to your arteries. If your levels of LDL cholesterol are too high, it can build up on the walls of your arteries.
This buildup is also known as cholesterol plaque. This plaque can narrow your arteries, limit your blood flow, and raise your risk of blood clots. If a blood clot blocks an artery in your heart or brain, it can cause a heart attack or stroke.
HDL cholesterol, or “good cholesterol”
HDL cholesterol is sometimes called “good cholesterol.” It helps return LDL cholesterol to your liver to be removed from your body. This helps prevent cholesterol plaque from building up in your arteries.
When you have healthy levels of HDL cholesterol, it can help lower your risk of blood clots, heart disease, and stroke.