Understanding Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance carried by the blood to every cell in the body. Some cholesterol is needed by your body to develop cell walls and help with other important body functions.

Cholesterol comes from two sources: your body and the foods you eat. In your body cholesterol is made in the liver. Your liver makes all the cholesterol your body needs. Certain foods you eat provide additional amounts of cholesterol. Cholesterol in your diet comes from animal foods like meats, whole milk, cheese, butter, and eggs.

Triglycerides are another type of fat in your blood. Most of the body's fat tissue is in the form of triglycerides, stored for use as energy. Triglycerides are obtained primarily from fat in foods. High triglyceride levels may increase your risk of heart disease.

So, while some cholesterol in your blood is essential to your health, too much can be harmful. Over time, excess cholesterol can build up on the walls of arteries. This buildup or plaque narrows your arteries and reduces blood flow to the heart: this creates the risk of a heart attack. Heart disease is sometimes known as "the silent killer"; that's because it can often progress symptoms-free for years before even being detected. Heart disease is American's number one killer. That's why it's so important to reduce your risk factors.

Anyone can have high cholesterol -- even if you are active or thin, young or old. In fact, 1 in every 4 people already do. Even if you eat right and exercise, your cholesterol levels might still be high. That's why many doctors today are prescribing medication in addition to diet and exercise for some people as part of their treatment plan to help lower high cholesterol. However, the adverse side effects of many of these prescription drugs can sometimes be quite severe.

Cholesterol and blood do not mix well. So, for cholesterol to travel through your blood, it is coated with a layer of protein to make lipoprotein. Two lipoproteins you may have heard about are high-density lipoprotein, or HDL cholesterol and Low-density Lipoprotein, or LDL cholesterol.

High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, cholesterol, has earned the nickname "good cholesterol". That's because it is believed to remove cholesterol from the blood. High levels of HDL in your blood may help to reduce your risk of coronary heart disease. A low level can increase your risk of heart disease.

Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL cholesterol, is known as "bad cholesterol". Excess LDL builds up in your arteries and may lead to heart disease. The higher the level of LDL, the higher your risk for heart disease. Lowering elevated LDL cholesterol can reduce the risk of having a heart attack.

More than half of all adult Americans have elevated total blood cholesterol levels. More than 28% (about 51 million people) are eligible for treatment to reduce their levels of LDL cholesterol.

Here's an easy way to remember your levels when you get your cholesterol checked:
You want your HDL to be "High" and your LDL to be "Low".

  • Lowering Cholesterol

  • Inflammation and Heart Disease


    DesirableBorderline(high)High Risk
    Total Cholesterol<200200-240>240
    Low Density Cholesterol<130130-160>160
    High Density Cholesterol>5050-35<35

    Cholesterol and Triglycerides together constitutes Blood lipids or fats

    High density cholesterol (HDL) (the "good" cholesterol) reduces harmful low density cholesterol from the blood and tissues and delivers it to the liver where
    it is processed for excretion.

    Low density cholesterol (LDL) (the "bad" cholesterol) promote deposits in the arteries gradually leading to narrowing and hardening which blocks the passage of blood. This condition is termed as "atherosclerosis" which leads to high blood pressure and heart diseases.

    Sedentary life style decreases energy spending by the body and contribute to over weight and rise in blood lipids. Exercise increases good cholesterol (HDL) in the body.