In some ways, cholesterol has had a bad rap. While cholesterol can be linked to the various kinds of heart disease (such as strokes, heart attacks, and peripheral vascular disease), it is necessary for the production of certain hormones in the body, in particular, the reproductive hormones.

While we need cholesterol, too much cholesterol in the body can be a bad thing. Cholesterol is a fat substance produced by the liver and made into hormones or turned into bile acids, which help us digest the fats in our diet. Cholesterol is so fatty that it doesn’t mix well with blood but must travel in the bloodstream through lipoproteins.

There are two kinds of lipoproteins in the body.

The first is LDL lipoprotein, which is considered the “bad” lipoprotein. It is responsible for taking the cholesterol to the arteries of the body and results in atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries from fat and calcium deposits).

The second is HDL lipoprotein, which is also called the “good” lipoprotein. It is responsible for removing cholesterol from the peripheral tissues and putting it in the liver for metabolism. The idea is to have a high HDL lipoprotein level and a low LDL lipoprotein level in the body.

The Effects Of Too Much Cholesterol In The Body

While we need cholesterol to make bile acids, vitamin D and hormones in the body, too much cholesterol can be dangerous. Cholesterol comes from the diet and is manufactured in the liver.

Cholesterol in the diet accounts for about twenty-five percent of the cholesterol in the system. It comes from the production of fats made by animals (in other words, from fatty meats and dairy). The rest is produced by the body.

If you have high cholesterol levels, it means you have more cholesterol in your bloodstream than your body really needs. You may initially have no symptoms from having high cholesterol and you need to have a blood test called a lipid profile to see what your cholesterol levels are. If you have been found to have high cholesterol, you can change your diet to lower the cholesterol levels.

You can also exercise in order to lower your body cholesterol levels or take medication that lowers cholesterol by prescription. All of these things can lessen your risk of heart disease.

Effects On The Brain

If you have high cholesterol, you can have cholesterol plaques build up in the arteries that supply the brain. Blood clots can develop in the arteries leading to the brain, resulting in a stroke. Brain cells need a constant supply of oxygen from open blood vessels in order to function properly.

Without oxygen, you can develop an ischemic stroke. Embolic strokes happen when pieces of blood clot and cholesterol plaques break off from other parts of the bloodstream and can block cerebral arteries.

Regardless of the type of stroke you have, you can quickly develop a sudden numbness and weakness in your body due to the death of brain cells.

Other symptoms include visual disturbances, balance difficulties, and speech disturbances. If too much of the brain is affected by a stroke, severe disability and death can occur.

Effects Of Cholesterol On The Limbs

Plaques of cholesterol and calcium can build up on the blood vessels leading up to the arms and legs (especially the legs). This can cause peripheral artery disease. When this happens, the blood flow to the arms or legs is blocked and the limbs can become numb and nonfunctioning.

Gangrene can occur in the limbs and the leg or arm may need to be amputated if the circulation can’t quickly be restored to the affected tissues. The limbs can become infected because the immune system cells can’t reach the infected tissue to fight off the infection.

Cholesterol’s Effect On The Digestive System

Elevated cholesterol levels can cause an imbalance in the bile within the gallbladder, causing the creation of gallstones. About 80 percent of all gallstones in the gallbladder are made from a buildup of cholesterol. Only by lowering the cholesterol in your system can you reduce the incidence of cholesterol-based gallstones.

Cholesterol plaques in the arteries can result in a blockage of the arteries leading to the kidneys or to the stomach. There is a condition known as “intestinal ischemic syndrome” that results from a blockage of the arteries that normally go to the bowels, stomach, or intestine.

You can develop symptoms from this condition, such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and blood in the stools.