Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in your body and many foods. Your body needs it to work properly and makes all that you need. Too much cholesterol can accumulate depending on the kind of foods you eat and the rate at which your body breaks it down.
Extra cholesterol can build up in your arteries. Over time, cholesterol deposits, called plaque, can narrow your arteries and allow less blood to pass through.
When plaque totally blocks an artery carrying blood to the heart, a heart attack occurs. It also can happen when a deposit ruptures and causes a clot in a coronary artery. Chest pain, also called angina, is caused by plaque partially blocking a coronary artery, reducing blood flow to the heart.
“Bad” and “Good” Cholesterol
Particles called lipoproteins carry cholesterol in the blood. There are two kinds of lipoproteins you need to know about: LDL and HDL.
- Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol makes up the majority of the body’s cholesterol. LDL is known as “bad” cholesterol because having high levels can lead to a buildup in the arteries and result in heart disease.
- High-density lipoproteins (HDL) cholesterol absorbs cholesterol and carries it back to the liver, which flushes it from the body. High levels of HDL, or “good” cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Lowering Your Cholesterol Levels
You can take several steps to maintain a normal cholesterol level:
- Get a blood test.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Exercise regularly.
- Don’t smoke.
- Treat high cholesterol.
If you have high cholesterol, your doctor may prescribe medications in addition to lifestyle changes. Talk with your doctor about how to reduce your risk for heart disease.
Originally published on Not Just the Kitchen