Too much cholesterol can put you at risk for heart attacks, strokes, and other blood vessel diseases.

Cholesterol is a type of fat made by the liver. It is necessary for our body’s cells to function. If you have too much cholesterol in the blood, it builds up along the walls of your blood vessels and forms plaque. Plaque build-up narrows the blood vessels. When this happens in the blood vessels that supply your heart, it is harder for the oxygen in your blood to reach your heart muscle. In time, this can lead to a heart attack. Plaque build-up in the blood vessels that supply your brain can lead to a stroke. Plaque build-up in the blood vessels that supply your legs can cause pain in your leg when walking.

plaque in artery

People with high blood pressure often have high cholesterol. But doctors aren’t sure if high cholesterol causes high blood pressure. It is possible that similar things cause both high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) is the “bad” type of cholesterol. Studies show that it is the most likely type to form plaque in the major blood vessels that supply the heart. They also show that lowering LDL-C lowers your risk of heart attacks and other blood vessel diseases. LDL-C can be lowered with a healthy diet and exercise. It can also be lowered with medicine. Statins are the most common medicine used to lower LDL-C.

Cholesterol too high? This raises your risk of heart attack and stroke. Oh my!