Cholesterol is a sterol, and a lipid found in cell membranes of all body tissues. Cholesterol is a soft, fat-like wax found in the bloodstream and in all of the body's cells. Most cholesterol is synthesized in the body (about 75%) although some does come from the diet (about 25%). In more recent years, cholesterol has been broken up into, 'good' and 'bad' categories. 'Bad' cholesterol is of the LDL (low-density lipoprotein) form because it is thought to have harmful actions within the body. 'Good' Cholesterol is of the HDL (high-density lipoprotein) form because it has beneficial actions. However, it is important to remember that some cholesterol is good and necessary for a proper functioning body.
Cholesterol is involved in many everyday processes of the body. It helps maintain to build and maintain cell membranes, helps create bile, and metabolize fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K). Cholesterol helps with cell signaling and is a precursor to the synthesisof vitamin D. It also helps produce some hormones.
However, when there is too much LDL cholesterol in the blood, it can lead to problems. The LDL cholesterol, which is the bad cholesterol, can slowly build up in the arteries that lead to the heart and brain. This build-up combined with other substances creates a plaque that can narrow the arteries and make them less flexible. This condition, atherosclerosis, can lead to more serious conditions like a heart attacke or stroke if a clot and blockage were to occur.
HDL, the good cholesterol, helps protect the body and keep it functioning properly. HDL cholesterol helps carry away LDL cholesterol, preventing build ups and blockage.
It is important that everyone checks their cholesterol levels to maintain a healthy well-being.