What is cholesterol?

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Updated: 4/11/2007 2:50 pm
Cholesterol is an essential body chemical. It is one of the fat-like nutrients transported in the blood and is used by the body to build cell walls and produce vitamin D and certain hormones. The body produces about one thousand milligrams of cholesterol each day to meet its needs. Most of us consume more cholesterol than we need when we eat foods that are high in saturated fat, such as meat and dairy products. If we consume cholesterol, the body slows down production of it, but not enough to prevent blood levels from rising. When there is too much cholesterol in the bloodstream, it can become trapped in the walls of the coronary arteries and build up over time. When the artery that supplies blood to the heart becomes clogged with cholesterol deposits, part of the heart muscle goes without the nutrients and oxygen it needs and dies. The result can be chest pains, a heart attack, and even death. To lower cholesterol blood levels, avoid foods high in saturated fats. Eat more foods with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats which can help lower blood cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. For more information on cholesterol, contact a health care professional.

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