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What Is Cholesterol?

Your body needs some cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help you digest foods. Your body makes all the cholesterol it needs. However, cholesterol also is found in some of the foods you eat. Cholesterol is a type of fat made by your liver. Some cholesterol comes from the food that you eat. Foods that come from animals – such as eggs, meat, and dairy products – have cholesterol in them. Foods that come from plants don’t have cholesterol. But it’s not just the cholesterol in foods that counts. Foods high in saturated fat (hydrogenated vegetable fats, tropical fats [coconut and palm oil], and animal fats) can also raise your cholesterol level.To understand high blood cholesterol (ko-LES-ter-ol), it helps to learn about cholesterol. Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that’s found in all cells of the body.


Cholesterol travels through your bloodstream in small packages called lipoproteins (lip-o-PRO-teens). These packages are made of fat (lipid) on the inside and proteins on the outside.


Two kinds of lipoproteins carry cholesterol throughout your body:

  1. low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and

  2. high-density lipoproteins (HDL).

Having healthy levels of both types of lipoproteins is important.


LDL cholesterol sometimes is called “bad” cholesterol. A high LDL level leads to a buildup of cholesterol in your arteries. (Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to your body.)


HDL cholesterol sometimes is called “good” cholesterol. This is because it carries cholesterol from other parts of your body back to your liver. Your liver removes the cholesterol from your body.

Understand your risk

The only way to know if you have high cholesterol levels is to have a simple blood test.

Canadian guidelines recommend having your cholesterol tested if you:

  • Are a male over 40 years of age

  • Are female over 50 years of age and/or post-menopausal

  • Have heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure

  • Have a waist circumference greater than 94 cm (37 inches) for men and 80 cm (31.5 inches) for women

  • Smoke or have smoked within the last year

  • Have erectile dysfunction

  • Have a family history of heart disease or stroke

How to manage your cholesterol : CLICK HERE

FOR MORE INFORMATION:   Check out the Heart and Stroke website

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