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What is High Cholesterol?

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By itself, cholesterol is not a bad thing. A waxy substance, cholesterol is present in all cells. It helps your body digest foods, create hormones, and manufacture vitamin D. Lipoproteins (high density lipoprotein or HDL) and low density lipoprotein (LDL) are the mechanisms responsible for delivering and distributing cholesterol to the body.

Unfortunately, while the right amount of cholesterol is a good thing, too much cholesterol may result in damage and blockage to the arteries, which in turn may increase your risk of heart disease. Here, we’ll take a look at some of the basic fact about high cholesterol.

What is LDL and HDL cholesterol?
LDL or low density lipoprotein is sometimes referred to as “bad” cholesterol. This type of cholesterol is called bad because it may lead to an excessive amount of cholesterol in the heart arteries. Too much cholesterol in the heart arteries may cause them to become blocked, increasing your risk of heart disease, atherosclerosis, or other cardiac events.

On the other hand, HDL or high density lipoprotein is often referred to as “good” cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is the housekeeper when it comes to cholesterol. It picks up excess cholesterol throughout the body and delivers it to the liver where it’s removed.

My doctor says I have hyperlipidemia. What does that mean?
Hyperlipidemia is another name for high cholesterol. Sometimes, high cholesterol is also referred to as hypercholesterolemia.

Why is high cholesterol bad?
Have you ever had to deal with a clogged sink? If so, then you know how the clog, or blockage, prevents the water from flowing normally. High cholesterol functions much the same way. It clogs the heart arteries, decreasing blood flow, making it more difficult for the heart to do its job and deliver oxygen to the rest of the body. As a result, high cholesterol may increase your risk of stroke or heart attack.

What are high cholesterol symptoms?
It’s not uncommon for people with high cholesterol to have no symptoms. Frequently, the first time that they know their cholesterol is high is after they have a blood test which reveals the condition.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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