Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that’s found in all the cells in your body. 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. Cholesterol is also found in foods from animal sources, such as egg yolks, meat, and cheese.
The most common cause of high cholesterol is an unhealthy lifestyle, especially poor eating habits. Other causes include lack of physical activity, smoking, and genetics. Age, heredity, weight, and race can also affect your risk for high cholesterol.
If you have too much cholesterol in your blood, it can combine with other substances in the blood to form plaque, which sticks to the walls of your arteries. This buildup of plaque is known as atherosclerosis. It can lead to coronary, carotid, or peripheral artery disease, blood clots, angina (chest pain), heart attack, or stroke. There are often no signs or symptoms that you have high cholesterol.
Lifestyle changes are important in controlling cholesterol, but if they alone do not lower your cholesterol enough, you may also need to add medication. There are several types of cholesterol-lowering drugs available.