Overview

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that plays an important role in building cell membranes and sex hormones. Found in the lipids (fats) of the blood, the substance is also a vital component of bile. Bile, of course, is, a product of the liver that breaks down fats so that humans can digest them. Choelsterol does not dissolve in the blood, and has to be carried to and from cells by lipoproteins. Although there are many kinds of lipoproteins, two are important to know about: low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and high-density lipoproteins (HDL).

The truth is that the body has all the cholesterol it needs. Unfortunately, cholesterol is also found in certain foods, especially the high-fat variety. Consuming too much chlesterol by eating a diet high in saturated fat can cause your levels to increase dangerously.

Coronary heart diseaseHigh cholesterol levels will greatly increase your chances of getting heart disease and/or having a heart attack. Coronary heart disease affects the blood vessels in your heart, restricting them so that the blood can not flow properly in and out of the heart. This leads to heart attacks. Heart disease is the number one killer of adult men and women in the United States. It is also considered the number one killer of African-Americans today. More than a million Americans have heart attacks annually, and heart disease kills more than half a million in the United States each year.

The reason cholesterol plays such an important role in this process is because when too much cholesterol in the blood builds up in the artery walls, it causes what is known as "hardening of the arteries". The hardened arteries become narrower so blood flow to the heart slows down or is blocked entirely. Since blood carries oxygen to the heart, slowing that flow causes a variety of problems including chest pain. A blockage to part of the heart will wreak havoc on your heart and your overall health..

Since there are no symptoms of high cholesterol, or hypercholesterolemia, most people do not know that they have this condition. Learning about your cholesterol levels is rather simple. It only requires a blood test that your primary care doctor can easily perform as part of your annual check-up. If you are one of the millions of Americans who has high cholesterol, there are a multitiude of measures you can take to reduce those levels such as eating low fat foods, exercising, taking certain medication and reducing stress.

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