Cholesterol is an important type of fat (lipid) that is made by the body. It is needed for the body to function. It also is found in foods that are made from animal products (meat and dairy products).
Cells need cholesterol to function. But excess cholesterol in the blood builds up in blood vessels and may lead to hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), heart disease, and stroke. People who have diabetes are at higher risk for atherosclerosis.
There are two main forms of cholesterol:
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is called "bad cholesterol." Most efforts to lower cholesterol are aimed at reducing levels of LDL.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is called "good cholesterol." It can help remove excess cholesterol from the blood vessels.
A person's cholesterol level can be checked with a blood test.