There's a lot of news about cholesterol these days, and with good reason. High cholesterol can contribute to heart disease, which kills more Americans than all cancers combined.

Cholesterol is a waxy, fatlike substance that your body – mainly the liver – produces. Cholesterol is used to make some hormones, vitamin D and bile acids, which help to digest fat. Cholesterol also is used to build healthy cell membranes in the brain, nerves, muscles, skin, liver, intestines and heart. It only takes a small amount of cholesterol to meet all these needs. Your body makes enough. You don't need or want additional cholesterol in your diet.

Why is a high cholesterol level unhealthy? Cholesterol causes a problem only when you have too much of it in your blood. Excess cholesterol is deposited in the lining of the arteries, including the arteries that feed your heart muscle. This narrows the area inside the artery through which blood flows. High blood cholesterol itself does not cause symptoms, so many people are unaware that their cholesterol level is too high. Your physician can order a simple blood test to determine your cholesterol levels.

Learn more about cholesterol arrows