Cholesterol is a form of lipid that travels through the body as a lipoprotein.
Cholesterol plays an important role in the body, but too much of it can lead to buildup in the arteries. This buildup, known as plaque, can block arteries and lead to potentially life-threatening conditions such as heart disease.
This article explains whether cholesterol is a lipid and what role it plays in the body. It also discusses how to measure and manage lipid levels, which can be important in preventing health problems.
Cholesterol is a lipoprotein, meaning it’s part lipid and part protein. A lipid is a type of fat.
While too much cholesterol can cause health problems, the body needs some cholesterol to stay healthy. The production of cholesterol takes place in the liver. People also get cholesterol from eating the following foods:
- dairy products
According to an
In addition, cholesterol helps the body produce:
Triglycerides are a type of lipid in the body. The
There are two main types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
LDL cholesterol, which people may refer to as “bad” cholesterol, contributes to the fatty buildup in the arteries that can eventually lead to a blockage. Too much LDL cholesterol can increase a person’s risk of developing several conditions, including heart attack, peripheral artery disease, and stroke.
HDL, or “good” cholesterol, may help lower your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. It transports LDL cholesterol back to the liver, where this organ breaks it down and removes it from the body.
A person may not experience any symptoms if they have high cholesterol. However, a doctor can perform a blood test called a lipid profile to check these levels.
Usually a person has to fast for
The test measures several aspects of cholesterol, including:
Most adults should have this test every 4-6 years.
Doctors may recommend more frequent testing for some groups of people. These include people with heart disease, a family history of heart disease, or high cholesterol.
Children and adolescents should also undergo a lipid profile once at age 9–11 and a second time at age 17–21.
Treatment for high cholesterol often involves a combination of medications and lifestyle changes.
Several types of cholesterol-lowering drugs exist. A doctor may recommend one or a combination of several medications to help lower cholesterol levels.
Some common types
- statins, which slow the production of cholesterol
- bile acid sequestrants, which reduce the bile acids that make LDL
- injectable medications, such as PCSK9 inhibitors
- fibrates, which lower triglyceride levels
- niacin or nicotinic acid, which helps lower cholesterol levels
Although niacin is available for purchase as a dietary supplement, a person should never take it without a doctor’s supervision. This is because it can cause
In addition to medications, a doctor will likely recommend a person make several lifestyle changes.
Some commonly recommended lifestyle changes that can affect cholesterol levels
Cholesterol is a type of lipoprotein that plays an important role in the functioning of the body. However, an excessive amount can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and other conditions.
The only way to confirm cholesterol levels is to undergo a lipid panel, which a person should have at least every 4-6 years.
If a person’s cholesterol level is elevated, a doctor may prescribe medication. They will also likely recommend lifestyle changes such as exercise and a nutritious, balanced diet.