06 May 2007

Cholesterol - what is it?

Cholesterol is a soft, waxy, fat-like substance the body needs for cells to grow and regenerate. Cholesterol comes from two sources: your body and the foods you eat. The body manufactures its own cholesterol in the liver, and it only takes a small amount of cholesterol in the blood to meet its needs. However, because cholesterol can be found in foods such as red meats, whole milk dairy foods, and egg yolks, eating too much dietary cholesterol can make your blood cholesterol levels increase. Too much cholesterol circulating in the bloodstream is known as hypercholesterolemia.

Hypercholesterolemia increases the risk of heart disease because it can lead to atherosclerosis, a condition in which fat and cholesterol are deposited on the walls of the arteries. Atherosclerosis can occur in arteries throughout the body, including the coronary arteries feeding the heart. In time, narrowing of the coronary arteries by atherosclerosis can produce the signs and symptoms of heart disease, including angina (chest pain) and heart attacks.



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