Cholesterol is a fat-like, waxy substance. It is found in your body as well as in some foods. Everyone needs some cholesterol for a healthy body. But too much of certain types of cholesterol is unhealthy.

Cholesterol is made up of fat. In order to travel easily through your blood, it needs help. To do this, the cholesterol fat molecules have to join with different kinds of proteins. This makes something called “lipoproteins”. LDL cholesterols and HDL cholesterols are the main types. LDL cholesterols are usually known as the “bad” cholesterol. HDL cholesterols are known as the “good” cholesterol.

Cholesterol benefits your body in many ways. It helps make up the outer, protective layer of your cells called cell membranes. It also helps absorb nutrients from your food. Its role doesn’t stop there. Cholesterol is vital in making hormones in your body. These hormones help with your body’s stress responses. Some of these hormones are also critical for your reproductive function.

But cholesterol can also play a bad role in your body. When there are too many bad cholesterols floating in your blood, they can start attaching to your blood vessel walls. This can slow down or block blood flow. In turn, the blockage raises your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. This is why it is so important to keep your cholesterol levels in check. Talk to your doctor about how you can manage your cholesterol.