We know that too much cholesterol in the bloodstream is a bad thing, so why do we have cholesterol in our bodies in the first place? Cholesterol actually does a lot of work and it exists in the outer layers of every cell in the human body. Cholesterol is an important part of a healthy body because it is used to form some hormones, cell membranes and is needed for many other vital body functions. But, too much “bad” cholesterol can lead to coronary heart disease and is a leading cause of heart attack. Also, for the men out there, high cholesterol levels are a leading cause of erectile dysfunction or difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection.

The word “cholesterol” comes from the Greek word chole, meaning “bile,” and the Greek word stereos, meaning “solid, stiff.” It is a waxy fat (or lipid) that is produced in the liver and is located throughout the body, especially in the blood stream. Cholesterol originates in the body in two main ways. First, the cholesterol you bring into the body through dietary intake, like a cheeseburger or those Buffalo wings you had for lunch. Secondly, the liver produces and secretes certain types of cholesterol and also works to regulate its presence in the bloodstream.

Here are some of the major functions of cholesterol:

• It maintains and builds the outer layers of cell membranes and prevents the crystallization of hydrocarbons into the membrane.
• It is a key player in deciding which molecules are allowed to enter the cell and which ones cannot.
• It is a big player in the production of both male and female sex hormones.
• It is essential for the production of adrenal gland hormones.
• It helps in bile production.
• It takes sunshine and turns it into Vitamin D
• It helps the body to metabolize fat-soluble vitamins including A, D, E and K.
• Provides nerve fiber insulation

How Do People Get High Cholesterol?

High cholesterol problems can occur in people who make unhealthy lifestyle choices as well as those who get it through no fault of their own because of their genetics. If you have a family history of coronary heart disease or high cholesterol, you have a far greater chance of having cholesterol problems. Also, if you are of people from the Indian sub-continent (Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka) you are more susceptible to having higher cholesterol levels, compared to those who hail from other parts of the globe.

You can also elevate your cholesterol levels due to lifestyle choices like a diet high in saturated fat. Foods high in saturated fat include red meat, some pies, sausages, hard cheese, lard, pastry, cakes, most biscuits, cream and many more tasty but very unhealthy foods. Also a lack of exercise and too much time on the couch can lead to high cholesterol. Further, smoking and drinking too much alcohol can work to raise your cholesterol levels as well.