While our bodies need a certain amount of cholesterol to work properly, too much of the “bad” type can be dangerous. Over time, cholesterol and fat can collect in the inner walls of the arteries – including the ones that supply blood to the heart.
This buildup can cause a narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis), which is a major cause of heart and blood vessel disease. People with too much low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, cholesterol – also called the “bad” cholesterol – are more likely to have a heart attack or a stroke.
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that travels through the blood. Fats in some foods we eat gets made into cholesterol and is also made by the liver. It serves a variety of functions. For example, it helps create the outer coating of our cells and aids the body in making vitamin D and certain hormones.
Extra dietary fats get absorbed by the body and raise bad cholesterol in the blood.
Saturated and trans fats also raise LDL-cholesterol levels in the blood and increase the chance of heart disease. Foods that are high in animal fat (full-fat milk, cheese, meat) or prepared with butter, shortening or partially hydrogenated oils and sweets (cookies and cakes) are often the main culprits.