Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found naturally in all cells of body. It is generated by the liver as well as taken from food sources. The body uses cholesterol to manufacture certain hormones, vitamin-D, bile acids and cell membranes.
Cholesterol is insoluble in water, hence, it is carried in blood by means of particles called lipoproteins which are a composition of fat and proteins. Lipoproteins are primarily of two types; low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL cholesterol or “bad cholesterol” carries cholesterol to the arteries and if it is too high in the body, the excess gets deposited on the walls of arteries known as plaque. This plaque eventually narrows the arteries, decreases the blood flow and predisposes a person at the risk of clot formation leading to heart attack or stroke. HDL cholesterol or “good cholesterol” returns the LDL cholesterol to the liver. The third component of cholesterol is very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL or triglyceride). This is a different type of cholesterol which provides energy to the body. In case calorie consumption exceeds utilization, the excess gets converted into triglycerides and stored in the liver. Desirable cholesterol in body is less than 200 mg/dl. Higher levels may lead to a number of heart diseases, stroke, heart attack and sudden death. Consuming unsaturated fats, cutting smoking and alcohol, reducing weight, regular physical activity maintains cholesterol within normal limits.