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, a narrowing of the arteries and a major cause of cardiovascular disease. People with high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also called the “bad” cholesterol, are at greater risk for cardiac events.
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that travels through the blood in carrier vehicles called lipoproteins. Cholesterol is 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.
Excess amounts of dietary fats get absorbed by the body and raise bad cholesterol in the blood.
Saturated and trans fats raise LDL cholesterol levels in the blood, thereby increasing the risk of heart disease. Foods that are high in animal fat (full-fat milk, cheese, meat) and/or prepared with butter, shortening or partially hydrogenated oils and sweets (cookies and cakes) are often the main culprits.