High cholesterol is a major risk factor for some of the western world’s biggest killers, including heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 38 percent of adults in the United States have high cholesterol. As high cholesterol does not cause any symptoms, many of Americans don’t even realize they’re at risk.
Fortunately, cholesterol is a controllable risk factor. This means that changes to diet and lifestyle can reduce cholesterol and a person’s risk of developing serious health problems.
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fatty substance produced in the liver. The human body needs at least some cholesterol to perform vital functions, like building hormones and processing high-fat foods.
Dietary cholesterol is the term used to describe additional cholesterol taken in through the foods we eat. It is predominantly found in animal products such as meat, eggs and dairy, as well as some processed foods.
Not all cholesterol is bad for your health. In fact, there are two types of cholesterol known as:
- Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL): Commonly referred to as “bad” cholesterol. It can lead to fatty deposits in arteries, which increase the risk of stroke and heart disease.
- High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL): Commonly referred as “good” cholesterol. Can counteract the effects of LDL fat and reduce its associated risks.