Cholesterol—the Big Bad of heart disease—can actually be a Good Thing. For starters, you need cholesterol. This essential soft, waxy substance is found not only in your bloodstream, but in every cell in your body, where it works to produce hormones such as estrogen and testosterone, vitamin D, cell membranes, and bile acids that help you digest fat. Cholesterol even helps in the formation of memories and is crucial for neurological function.
If you can read this, thank your cholesterol!
But cholesterol can also cause damage, if you have the wrong kind. And there’s a surprising reason why you may have the wrong kind.
Good Cholesterol vs. Bad Cholesterol
High-density lipoprotein or HDL is considered “good” cholesterol because it removes “bad” cholesterol from your circulation and artery walls, returning it to the liver for excretion, which can help prevent heart disease.
Low-density lipoprotein or LDL is considered “bad” cholesterol since it circulates in your blood and may build up in your arteries, eventually forming plaque that narrows your arteries and makes them less flexible (a condition called atherosclerosis). If a clot forms in a narrowed artery that leads to your heart or brain, you could suffer a heart attack or stroke.