Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance that is present in all parts of the body, including the nervous system, skin, muscle, liver, intestines, and heart. It is made in the body by the liver and is also obtained from animal products in the diet. Cholesterol is needed for normal body functions including the production of hormones, bile acid, and vitamin D. Excessive cholesterol in the blood contributes to atherosclerosis and subsequent heart disease. The risk of developing heart disease or atherosclerosis increases as the level of blood cholesterol increases.
Review Date: 1/25/2013
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital.