Cholesterol is a waxy substance in your body. Your body makes cholesterol, but it also comes from the foods you eat.
Cholesterol and plaque buildup
High levels of cholesterol in the blood can:
- Build up in your arteries
- Harden your arteries
- Contribute to the buildup of plaque inside the walls of your arteries
Plaque can build up inside your arteries. Too much plaque makes it harder for the blood to flow through the arteries. This can increase your risk for heart disease complications.
Where does cholesterol come from?
Cholesterol comes from your body and from food.
- Your body: Your body makes all the cholesterol you need and circulates it through the blood. You produce more cholesterol when you eat foods that are high in saturated and trans fats.
- Your food: Eating food with cholesterol, saturated fats, and trans fats can raise the cholesterol levels in your blood.
- Saturated fat: These are fats in foods that come mostly from animal fat. Some examples are butter, cream, and meat
- Trans fats: These fats occur naturally in some foods, like meat and dairy products, but can also be made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oils. This makes the oils more solid. You can find trans fats in some foods that are fried. Other examples are some margarines and shortening
How do I know if I have high cholesterol?
Your doctor may want to check your cholesterol with a blood test. The name of this test is a lipid panel or lipid profile. Your doctor will choose when this test is right for you. Doctors take into account your age and if you show any risk of high cholesterol or heart disease.
The lipid panel test includes:
- LDL (bad) cholesterol levels
- HDL (good) cholesterol levels
- Triglyceride levels
- Total cholesterol levels
Ask your doctor if you need your cholesterol checked as part of your health screening routine.