National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)

NIH…Turning Discovery Into Health®

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High Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is found in cells of the body. Cholesterol is also found in foods. The body uses cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help digest foods. However, too much cholesterol in the blood can build up in the walls of arteries (plaque) and can cause narrowing or hardening of the arteries. When too much plaque builds up on the walls of the coronary arteries, oxygen-rich blood flow to the heart can slow or even stop. Mainstays in treating high cholesterol include diet, weight loss, physical activity, and when necessary, drug treatment. Lowering cholesterol levels can slow down, reduce, or even stop plaque from building up. Lowering cholesterol may decrease the chance of having a heart attack.