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Cholesterol is a waxy, fatlike substance found in all parts of the body. It comes from two sources: your body and the food you eat. Your liver makes all the cholesterol your body needs. Eating too much cholesterol, which comes from animal foods like meats, whole milk dairy products, and egg yolks, can make your cholesterol go up. Being overweight and lack of physical activity also can make cholesterol go up. Too much cholesterol in the blood blocks it from flowing easily through your body. The higher your cholesterol, the more likely you are to get heart disease.
High cholesterol has no symptoms. Everyone 20 and older should have their cholesterol levels checked at least once every five years. Ask your doctor how often you should have your cholesterol levels checked.
Women need to know their cholesterol levels and what they mean. Your total cholesterol level actually comes from two different types of cholesterol: HDL and LDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is "good." It helps protect your heart. So, you want to keep it high — above 40 md/dL. But LDL cholesterol is really bad for your heart. So, you want to keep it low — below 130 mg/dL. You have borderline high cholesterol if the total is 200–239 md/dL. You have dangerously high cholesterol if the total is 240 md/dL or more.
Many American Indian and Alaska Native women have total cholesterol levels that are high. If you find out your levels are high, take these steps:
Content last updated: May 18, 2010.