When there is too much cholesterol in your blood, it builds up in the walls of your arteries. Over time, this buildup causes the arteries to harden -- a process called atherosclerosis. The arteries become narrowed and blood flow to the heart muscle is slowed down or blocked. The blood carries oxygen to the heart, and if enough blood and oxygen cannot reach your heart, you may suffer chest pain. If the blood supply to a portion of the heart is completely cut off by a sudden blockage, the result is a heart attack.
There are two forms of cholesterol that most Americans are familiar with: low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad" cholesterol) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good" cholesterol). These are the forms in which cholesterol travels in the blood. LDLs have little protein and high levels of cholesterol and HDL has a lot of protein and very little cholesterol.
LDL is the main source of artery clogging plaque. HDL actually works to clear cholesterol from the blood.
Triglycerides are another fat in our bloodstream. Research is now showing that high levels of triglycerides are also linked to heart disease.
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Archived: March 20, 2014
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