About Lipids

What is Cholesterol?

  • Cholesterol is a fatty substance made by the liver that is necessary to produce certain hormones and insulate nerves. Cholesterol is also found in foods like meats, poultry, and dairy products. Our bodies produce enough cholesterol naturally in the liver that much of the cholesterol supplied in our diet is not needed.
  • Too much cholesterol can cause fatty build-ups on the walls of your arteries, decreasing their capacity to carry blood.
  • Having high cholesterol levels can lead to cardiovascular disease—America’s #1 killer for both men and women.

Scientists have identified different components of cholesterol that are important to monitor. Three of these components are:

  • Good cholesterol: high density lipids (HDL-C)
  • Bad cholesterol: low density lipids (LDL-C)
  • Triglycerides: another form of fat in your blood

There are many other components and subcomponents of cholesterol, some of which will be measured in AIM-HIGH.

What is Good Cholesterol?

  • High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is known as the “good” cholesterol. Your body makes HDL cholesterol for your protection. It carries cholesterol away from your arteries. Studies suggest that high levels of HDL cholesterol reduce your risk of heart attack.

What is Bad Cholesterol?

  • Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, is known as the “bad” cholesterol. Too much LDL cholesterol can clog your arteries, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke.

What are Triglycerides?

  • Triglycerides are the chemical form in which most fat exists in food as well as in the body. Calories ingested in a meal and not used immediately by your body are converted to triglycerides and stored as fat. Having high triglycerides can lead to coronary artery disease in some people.

What Affects Cholesterol?

  • Diet: It is important to know the amount of cholesterol in the foods that you eat. Eating foods that are high in saturated fats can increase your cholesterol levels which can lead to cardiovascular disease.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise is good for your health and can lower your total cholesterol. By exercising regularly you can lower your bad cholesterol and raise your good cholesterol, and it can help you lose weight. Swimming, jogging and walking are good examples of exercises that can improve your heart health when included in your daily routine.
  • Weight: Being overweight can increase your cholesterol levels. Losing weight will help lower your bad cholesterol, raise your good cholesterol and lower your triglyceride levels.
  • Age & Gender: As you get older, your cholesterol levels generally rise. Before menopause, women generally have lower cholesterol levels than men of the same age. But, after menopause, women’s cholesterol levels do rise.
  • Heredity: High blood cholesterol can run in families.

Additional Information on Cholesterol:

  • The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute convened a panel of experts to draft guidelines regarding management of cholesterol in preventing cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and stroke. To read these guidelines visit this web site:
  • The American Heart Association (AHA) has published education materials on managing abnormal lipid levels and suggests methods to monitor cholesterol levels. The ratio of LDL-C or total cholesterol to HDL-C is one benchmark for estimating the risk of CHD. To read more about cholesterol levels and health risks, visit: