Ignoring high cholesterol risks now can have terrible consequences later on. There are many who do not take the risk of high cholesterol almost as seriously as they should – those who appear healthy and feel just fine, as well as those who know they have heart disease already or are at risk for it.

Yet we know cholesterol makes a direct contribution to heart disease, which can bring on heart attack or stroke.

Even with all the incredible treatments and diagnostic tools at our command today, heart disease remains the leading cause of both illness and death the world over. It's a tragedy to let a condition you can do something about get that far.

High cholesterol is all too easy to ignore because it brings no symptoms and no harm that you can see … so it's tough to justify the need to pay attention, to run to the doctor.

What's more, the effects take time; years and years, so many do not feel a sense of urgency when it comes to being tested, much less treated.

Unfortunately those higher than normal cholesterol numbers are fairly common, one in six people in America are thought to have dangerously high (240 mg / dL and above) cholesterol levels.

According to figures from 2007 collected by the CDC, over 21% of adult American have never had a cholesterol check. And many patients who are prescribed cholesterol-lowering medications, stop taking the drugs because they do not feel any better … can not see any results.

Cholesterol itself is a soft, fat like substance that's circulating in your bloodstream. Some of our cholesterol, as we've all been told, is found in the foods we eat; however, the bulk is produced in the liver by the body.

And though alarmists would have you believe otherwise, cholesterol does have a few positive uses. It's needed to make certain hormones, and is vital to the functionality of our cells; the trouble comes when we have more than our bodies need.

Cholesterol is known to be made up of three things …

There's LDL (known as bad cholesterol) that clogs your arteries and raises the risk of both heart attack as well as stroke. You want your number to be under 100 mg / dL, though if you have heart disease already you'll want to go for a much smaller number, say 70 mg / dL.

If your levels are too high, extra cholesterol accumulates on artery walls, and this narrows the artery much like a drain clogged with hair. This buildup can also cause arteriosclerosis, where the usually flexible tissue of the artery becomes more brittle and inflexible.

And then the HDL (good) cholesterol is so named because it attaches to the bad kind and takes it to the liver to be eliminated from the body. HDL cholesterol brings down the volume of bad cholesterol stored in your body, and you want your number to be at least 60 mg / DL.

Lastly, triglycerides are not a form of cholesterol at all, but another fat that's floating in your bloodstream. Just as with the LDL cholesterol, having a higher level than you should is dangerous and can increase your risk for heart problems. You want a constant level of under 150 mg / dL.

When it comes to cholesterol, what doctors are really saying is that we need to worry about elevated levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides, along with reduced levels of good cholesterol.

What about the total? A combined reading of below 200 mg / dL is the target, but most medical people do not focus on the total number anymore, as it does not mean a great deal. The average reading is 200 mg / dL for American adults.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that just about a fifth of all strokes, perhaps as much as half of heart attacks are associated with high cholesterol numbers. But if that's you, do not panic, there are things you can do to keep high cholesterol risks from becoming trouble … or doing more damage than it has already. Get to the doctor and get your cholesterol checked. If you're numbers are not where they should be, do something now, today, to take this silent danger seriously, before it's too late.