Cholesterol is a waxy substance that the liver produces and is also found in certain foods such as animal products. The body uses cholesterol to produce hormones, vitamin D, and bile acids. There are several types of cholesterol including low density lipoproteins (bad cholesterol), high density lipoproteins (good cholesterol), very low density lipoproteins, and triglycerides.
Excessive levels of cholesterol create a thick hard deposit called plaque that narrows the arteries and constricts the blood flow to the heart. Over time, this can lead to hardening of the arteries, atherosclerosis, which can lead to heart disease. Diet, weight, exercise, age, gender, diabetes, genetics, medications and certain medical conditions can all affect cholesterol levels in the body.