What is cholesterol?Cholesterol is a waxy substance that occurs naturally in all parts of the body and that your body needs to function normally.
Our body uses cholesterol to produce many hormones, vitamin D, and the bile acids that help to digest fat. It takes only a small amount of cholesterol in the blood to meet these needs. However, if you have too much cholesterol in your bloodstream, it can lead to atherosclerosis, a condition in which fat and cholesterol are deposited in the walls of the arteries in many parts of the body, including the coronary arteries feeding the heart.
Cholesterol is often called the “silent killer”, because like high blood pressure, high cholesterol is not painful or even noticeable to most people.
Testing is the only way to determine a possible problem.
Total cholesterol is the sum of all cholesterol measured in a person's blood. This total includes high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which is sometimes called the “good cholesterol,” and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, sometimes called the “bad cholesterol.”
Cholesterol is measured either in milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL) or in millimoles per liter of blood (mmol/L).
The ratio of total cholesterol to “good” (HDL) cholesterol is also important, especially if total cholesterol is high.