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High Blood Cholesterol

What causes high blood cholesterol and what you can do.
High blood cholesterol is a condition that, if not checked, can lead to serious disease. Learn more about high blood cholesterol and what you can do about this condition.

Cholesterol and Its Roles

Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is normally produced in the human body. It is needed to form cell walls and to manufacture many hormones. Cholesterol travels in the blood linked to either a low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or a high-density lipoprotein (HDL):
  • LDL takes cholesterol to various parts of the body for its functions. LDL-cholesterol is known as the 'bad' cholesterol, because a high level of it is associated with higher risk of heart disease.

  • HDL takes excess cholesterol in blood to the liver to be broken down and excreted. HDL-cholesterol is the 'good' cholesterol because a high level of it is associated with lower risk of hear disease.

Atherosclerosis

Problems start if your total blood cholesterol level is continually high, with a larger proportion of it being LDL-cholesterol. Then, excess cholesterol cannot be excreted fast enough and deposits in artery walls, a process known as atherosclerosis (thickening of the walls of arteries). This can affect any artery, but has the most serious effects in arteries of the heart muscle, brain and kidneys.

Complications

  • Heart disease, resulting in angina (chest pain due to temporary insufficient blood flow to the heart muscle), heart attack (complete blockage of blood flow to the heart muscle), or death.
  • Stroke (blockage of blood flow to part of the brain).
  • Kidney damage, high blood pressure.
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