Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in the blood and the cells of the body.
The body gets cholesterol in two ways. Some is made in the liver. The rest comes from eating foods from animals such as egg yolks, meat, and whole-milk dairy products.
Cholesterol is important for good health. It is needed for making cell walls, tissues, hormones, vitamin D, and bile acid, which aids in the digestion of food.
How does a body get too much cholesterol?
A person can get too much cholesterol in two ways.
(1) High blood cholesterol can run in families. The amount of cholesterol your body makes and the way your body controls its cholesterol levels can be affected by your family health history.
(2) A person’s diet may include too many foods high in cholesterol. Any type of food, whether from animals or plants, can contain fats, which cause the body to make even more cholesterol.
How will I benefit by lowering my cholesterol?
Too much cholesterol in the blood can build up in the walls of blood vessels and block blood flow to tissues and organs. This can increase the risk of developing heart disease and stroke (also known as a brain attack).
- For people without heart disease:
studies have shown that lowering cholesterol levels can reduce the risk of developing heart disease, including heart attacks and deaths related to heart disease. This is true for both those with high cholesterol levels and those with average levels.
- For people with heart disease:
studies have shown that lowering cholesterol can reduce the risk of dying from heart disease, having a nonfatal heart attack, and needing heart bypass surgery or angioplasty (surgery to unblock or repair a blood vessel).
Read entire handout Non-Drug Ways to Promote Health by Lowering Cholesterol at University of Wisconsin Integrative Medicine.
David Rakel MD is Associate Professor atThe University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Dr. Rakel is the Founder and Director of the UW Integrative Medicine Program.
Dr. Rakel is board certified in family medicine, holistic medicine and sports medicine. He is the editor for the textbook Integrative Medicine, now in its third edition, and co-editor for the Textbook of Family Medicine. Dr. Rakel completed a two year fellowship in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona.
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