High cholesterol is an excess of cholesterol in your blood. Cholesterol
is a type of lipid, which is a group of fats and other substances like fat that are found in
your body and in the foods you eat. A high cholesterol level is often due to a
problem with your lipoproteins (low-density lipoproteins, or LDL, and
high-density lipoproteins, or HDL). Lipoproteins are combinations of cholesterol, fat,
and protein that your body uses to transport cholesterol and fat nutrients in
your blood. The other important lipid nutrient that your body processes and
distributes along with cholesterol is triglyceride. This is a fat nutrient that your
muscle cells use for energy and that your body stores in your fat tissue for
Why is high cholesterol a risk factor for coronary artery disease?
An imbalance of these
cholesterol-carrying lipoproteins can lead to a buildup of cholesterol inside
your arteries. Doctors do not completely understand the process. The
excess cholesterol gets deposited in the walls of your arteries, which
contributes to the development of coronary artery disease (CAD). The hard plaque that
forms in your arteries as a result of atherosclerosis is made mostly of
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL)
LDL carries cholesterol from the liver to
other parts of the body where it is needed for cell repair and other
activities. But under certain conditions, LDL cholesterol builds up in the
walls of the arteries. For this reason, LDL cholesterol is often referred to as
Lowering LDL and total cholesterol levels can help lower the
risk of CAD, as well as heart attack, stroke, and death.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL)
HDL cholesterol is often referred to as "good" cholesterol. A high HDL level is linked with a lower risk of heart disease.
Triglycerides are another form of fat found in the blood. High
triglyceride levels may contribute to fat buildup in the heart arteries and
increase the risk of developing CAD.
ByHealthwise Staff Primary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine Specialist Medical ReviewerRobert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
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