Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is made by the liver. Cholesterol is also found in certain foods that we eat such as dairy products, eggs, meat and some shellfish, fried and processed foods. 

Cholesterol is important for the body and it is found in all cells of the body. Cholesterol is needed so that the body can make hormones, vitamin D and bile acids that help you to digest fat. Cholesterol helps build healthy cells but when your cholesterol levels in your blood are too high, this increases your risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Cholesterol travels through your bloodstream in small packages called lipoproteins: Lipoproteins are packages made of fat on the inside and proteins on the outside.

If your cholesterol levels are high the excess fat is deposited in your blood vessels. This makes it difficult for enough blood to flow through the arteries, and your heart may not get as much oxygen as it needs.  This increases your risk of heart attack, while decreased blood flow to the brain can cause a stroke.

Two kinds of lipoproteins carry cholesterol throughout your body: low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). Having healthy levels of both types of lipoproteins is important.

LDL cholesterol is often called “bad” cholesterol because if the LDL levels in your blood are high it can lead to a build-up of cholesterol in your arteries leading to heart disease, heart attacks and strokes

HDL cholesterol is often called “good” cholesterol. This “good cholesterol” carries cholesterol from other parts of your body back to your liver and your liver then removes the cholesterol from your body.

If you are a person living with diabetes, and you have high cholesterol, you are at even greater risk of developing a heart attack or having a stroke.

Like high blood pressure, you will not feel any symptoms of having high cholesterol, hence it is often referred to as the “silent killer”.

While high cholesterol can be inherited, often it is a result of an unhealthy lifestyle: too much food – in particular the “wrong” food and drink and not enough exercise.

Following a healthy lifestyle – healthy eating and exercise will help to improve your cholesterol levels, however, if this is not enough to bring your cholesterol levels down, your doctor will prescribe cholesterol-lowering drugs for you (Statins).