Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is carried around the body in the blood. The body produces most cholesterol naturally, and it is found in some foods. Lipoproteins carry cholesterol in the blood. The two main types that carry cholesterol to and from cells are called low low-density proteins (LDL-C) and high density lipoproteins (HDL-C).
The lower the density of the lipoproteins the more fats it contains. High density lipoprotein (HDL cholesterol) is called the ‘good cholesterol’ because it helps to keep cholesterol from building up in the arteries. Low density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol) is called the ‘bad cholesterol’ because it is the main source of cholesterol build-up and blockage in the arteries. Statin medication work to reduce this LDL-C.
Total cholesterol is a reading of the good and bad cholesterol. Triglycerides are another form of fat in the blood that can also raise the risk of heart disease. High triglycerides are often associated with low HDL cholesterol increasing risk, even though total cholesterol levels in the blood appear normal. When there is too much LDL-cholesterol in the blood, it builds up in the walls of the arteries (plaque). Over time, this build up causes ‘hardening of the arteries’. This can cause chest pain and/ or a heart attack.