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Cholesterol - what is it?

cholesterol; lipids; blood; obesity; low; density; lipoprotein; LDL high; HDL; exercise; fat; heart; attack; stroke;


What is cholesterol?

Pure cholesterol (say kol-ess-ter-oll) is soft waxy looking type of fat. Cholesterol can be found inside the body and in lots of foods.

There are two main types of cholesterol in our body.

  • HDL - high density lipoprotein (say lie-po-pro-teen)
    (HDL cholesterol is carried back to the liver which can break it down)
  • LDL - low density lipoprotein
    (LDL cholesterol doesn't go back to the liver. It floats around in the blood and can make trouble for the body.)

Cholesterol is moved around the body in the blood stream.

Where do you get it?

Your liver makes cholesterol, but it is also in some of the foods you eat - foods like meat, poultry (chicken), eggs, fish and dairy foods (milk, cheese and butter).

Plant foods like vegetables, fruit, grains, seeds and cereals don't have any cholesterol.

What does it do?

the brainYour body needs some cholesterol to help your organs, eg brain, skin and heart, grow, stay healthy and carry out their jobs. But many people have too much cholesterol.
The blood is the main transport system of the body.

  • Blood is mostly water but cholesterol is a lipid (fat) which won't mix with water. So the cholesterol has to be wrapped up in proteins, called lipoproteins, so that the cholesterol can sail along in the bloodstream to where it is needed.

The good, the bad and…

Good cholesterol (HDL) is helpful to your body but too much ‘bad' (LDL) cholesterol can cause problems. Too much bad cholesterol can collect in the blood vessel walls where it builds up and turns into plaque. This plaque (say plark) makes the veins and arteries narrower and this means that it is harder for the heart to pump blood round the body. It's a bit like the drains getting clogged up at your house.

eat the right foods

If this clogging up gets really bad then it can damage important parts of the body like the heart, (heart attack) or the  brain (stroke).

Some people are more likely to be at risk of having too much cholesterol if there is a history of such problems in the family.

How to help your body

To keep healthy levels of cholesterol in the body there are some things you can do.

  • have a balanced dietWatch out for eating too much fat. Even if you have food which is low in cholesterol but high in fat, this can lead to you having too much cholesterol in your body.
  • Check out food labels to see how much fat is in processed foods. Mono-unsaturated (say mono-un-sat-yer-ay-ted) fats are the healthiest, poly-unsaturated fats are next and you should eat only small amounts of saturated fats (like animal fats). Saturated fats and trans fats are the 'bad' ones.
  • Have a balanced diet. Our topic 'Balanced diet' will help you here.

Exercising every day will help your body to keep healthy. 

Dr Kim says

Dr KimIt is important for kids to eat well as you are growing. Learning how to eat healthy food and exercise your body when you are young will help you to become a healthy adult.


Nice red strawberries ready to eat,
Spiky, yellow pineapple, juicy and sweet.
Lots of choices to suit your mood.
So, when you're hungry, feeling starved,
Choose fruit for your food.


yummy fruit salad

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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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