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Why Is High Cholesterol Bad?

Too much LDL (bad) cholesterol can build up in the walls of your arteries. Over time, this buildup can lower blood flow. It can also increase your risk of coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease affects the blood vessels in your heart.

The types of fats in your blood

Cholesterol and other fats are called lipids. Lipids cannot dissolve in your blood. They have to be moved to parts of your body by special carriers. These carriers are called lipoproteins. Lipoproteins are substances that your body makes.

One of these carriers is low-density lipoprotein. Another name for this lipoprotein is LDL. LDL carries "bad" cholesterol through your body.

Another carrier is high-density lipoprotein. The other name for this lipoprotein is HDL or “good” cholesterol. HDL carries cholesterol back to your liver to be removed from your body.

TIP

Talk to your health care provider about your LDL (bad) cholesterol level.

LDL or "bad" cholesterol

Too much LDL (bad) cholesterol in your blood can build up in your arteries and help form plaque. This buildup of plaque can cause your blood vessels to harden. This can increase your risk of having heart disease. A higher level of LDL (bad) cholesterol is associated with a higher risk of heart disease. 

HDL or "good" cholesterol

HDL is often called "good" because it can carry "bad" cholesterol away from the walls of your arteries. A high level of HDL may be linked with a lower risk of having heart disease.

Triglycerides

Triglycerides are another type of fat in your blood. Your body uses triglycerides as a source of energy or stores them as fat.

Having high levels of triglycerides is usually not good for your health. High levels of triglycerides are associated with atherosclerosis. People with high triglycerides may also have a high total cholesterol level. Many people with heart disease or diabetes also have high triglycerides.

Total cholesterol

The total cholesterol level is a measure of all the cholesterol in your blood, including LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol. Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood (mg/dL). Your health care provider will do a lipid panel or lipid profile to test your blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Ask your health care provider to explain the meaning of the results.

TIP

Ask your health care provider if you need your cholesterol checked.

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