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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 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. About 1 in 5 adults have high levels of another type of lipoprotein called Lp(a) – or “L-P-little A,” – which we are learning more about. Much like high LDL cholesterol, high Lp(a) raises one’s heart disease risk.

Cholesterol gets made from fats in some foods we eat 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, fatty or dark meats) or prepared with butter, shortening or partially hydrogenated oils and sweets (cookies and cakes) are often the main culprits.

LDL cholesterol is one type of cholesterol found in your blood. As part of your cholesterol test, your care team will also look at your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and triglycerides.

How Cholesterol Affects Your Body
Higher levels of LDL cholesterol can:
  • Irritate or cause swelling within the artery walls
  • Lead blood clots to form where plaque has built up in the arteries
  • Reduce or block the flow of blood through the arteries
  • Last Edited 03/22/2024