What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fatty substance, known as a lipid that is found in your body. It’s produced naturally by the liver but is also present in a number of foods.
Cholesterol plays a vital role in the normal functioning of the body, such as in the development of vitamin D, a number of hormones and bile which leads to effective digestion.
It’s only when cholesterol levels become excessively high – a condition known as hyperlipidaemia – that your health may be adversely affected.
Currently, over half of all adults in the UK suffer from raised cholesterol, so it’s worth keeping a close check on your levels.
What do you need to know about it?
Cholesterol is made up of two main components:
- Low density lipoprotein (LDL)
- High density lipoprotein (HDL)
LDL cholesterol is often referred to as ‘bad cholesterol’ as it can deliver cholesterol into the arteries and cause clogging (arterial plaque). It is produced by the liver and forms part of your total cholesterol and is the main protein that delivers cholesterol to where it is needed around the body. At the right levels, its role is essential for healthy cell growth.
HDL cholesterol is referred to as ‘good cholesterol’ as it helps protect against disease of the arteries, which can lead to heart disease and stroke. It’s produced by the liver and forms part of your total cholesterol. HDL regulates the build-up of cholesterol in your arteries by channelling the excess to your liver, from where it’s expelled. This process helps to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke by lowering the danger of ‘clogging up’ (arterial plaque).
There are a number of factors that can influence both LDL and HDL levels such as lifestyle, diet and medicine which can cause levels to increase, decrease or stay maintained.
It’s important to remember that your cholesterol can change for the better and the worst over time, and with currently over half of all adults in the UK suffer from raised cholesterol, it is worth keeping a close eye on it.