Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is found in the blood and in all of the body's cells. It is essential for the body's normal function, but too much cholesterol can increase the risk of heart disease.
Cholesterol is transported in the bloodstream by lipoproteins, which come in two primary types: low-density lipoprotein (LDL), commonly referred to as "bad" cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as "good" cholesterol. LDL cholesterol has the potential to accumulate in the walls of arteries, resulting in blockages that increase the likelihood of heart attacks and strokes. In contrast, HDL cholesterol aids in the elimination of excessive cholesterol from the bloodstream.
High cholesterol can be caused by a number of factors, including genetics, diet, and lifestyle choices. Risk factors for high cholesterol include age, gender, family history, and certain medical conditions such as diabetes and kidney disease.
Treatment for high cholesterol typically involves a combination of lifestyle changes and medications. Lifestyle changes may include following a heart-healthy diet, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight. Medications such as statins can also be used to lower cholesterol levels.
Regular cholesterol screenings are recommended for adults starting at age 20 to identify and manage high cholesterol. Depending on individual risk factors and cholesterol levels, some people may need more frequent screenings or earlier screening.
Overall, understanding cholesterol and its effects on heart health is important for maintaining overall health and reducing the risk of heart disease. By making lifestyle changes and working with healthcare professionals to manage high cholesterol, individuals can take control of their heart health.