Cholesterol is an important type of fat (lipid) that is made by the body and is necessary for it to function. It also is found in foods that are made from animal products (meat and dairy products).
Cells need cholesterol to function. However, excess cholesterol in the blood builds up in blood vessels and may lead to hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), heart disease, and stroke. People who have diabetes are at higher risk of developing atherosclerosis.
There are two main forms of cholesterol:
A person's cholesterol level can be checked with a blood test. If the level is too high, lifestyle changes (such as diet changes and exercise) may help lower it. Some people may need to take medication to lower their cholesterol levels and reduce their risk of heart disease.
Last Revised: July 2, 2010
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Carl Orringer, MD - Cardiology, Clinical Lipidology
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