High cholesterol is a well-known risk factor in heart disease. This waxy, fat-like substance comes from the diet, but is primarily made by the liver, and is an essential component of cell membranes. The body also uses it to produce hormones and vitamin D.
Cholesterol is carried through the bloodstream attached to two different compounds called lipoproteins: low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). LDL is commonly known as the “bad cholesterol”; it carries cholesterol from the liver throughout the body, making it available and potentially allowing it to be deposited in artery walls. HDL is known as the “good cholesterol”; it picks up cholesterol from the blood and delivers it to cells that use it, or back to the liver to be recycled or eliminated from the body.