Cholesterol is an important type of fat (lipid) that is made by the body. It is needed for the body to function. It also is found in foods that are made from animal products (meat and dairy products).
Cells need cholesterol to function. But excess cholesterol in the blood can build up in blood vessels and may lead to hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), heart attack, and stroke.
There are two main forms of cholesterol:
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is called "bad cholesterol." Most efforts to lower cholesterol are aimed at reducing levels of LDL.
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is called "good cholesterol." It can help remove excess cholesterol from the blood vessels.
A person's cholesterol level can be checked with a blood test.
Current as of: January 10, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Caroline S. Rhoads MD - Internal Medicine