Good And Bad Cholesterol Explained
Cholesterol which is also known as a lipid is a waxy substance produced in the liver and is naturally circulated in the blood. Cholesterol may increase from the foods we eat.
All of us are born with cholesterol naturally circulating in our bodies and we require a certain level of cholesterol to live a healthy life, in saying that, not all types of cholesterol are created equally, which is why it is important to know the difference between good and bad cholesterol.
Lets talk about good cholesterol, bad cholesterol and the differences between each type of cholesterol.
How Is Good Cholesterol Measured
Good cholesterol or HDL cholesterol is generally measured in milligrams per decilitre or millimoles per litre via a blood test.
Good cholesterol or HDL cholesterol makes up one part of your total cholesterol levels. Generally speaking, cholesterol tests measure the amount of good cholesterol or cholesterol attached to HDL in the blood.
Cholesterol tests also offer a view on the percentage of HDL against the amount of total cholesterol. This can also be represented as a total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol ratio.
How Is Bad Cholesterol Measured
Bad cholesterol or LDL is generally measured in milligrams per decilitre or millimoles per litre via a blood test.
Bad cholesterol or LDL cholesterol generally makes up a larger proportion of your total cholesterol levels.
As mentioned, cholesterol tests generally measure good cholesterol as a percentage of total cholesterol. Additionally, cholesterol tests will generally measure total triglycerides, total cholesterol and bad cholesterol .
The acceptable bad cholesterol levels very from person to person, this can depend on age, family history and personal history of heart issues.
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The Healthy Cholesterol Range
There should be a balance of good and bad cholesterol in the body for complete health and wellness. The normal cholesterol in the body should be 200 mg / dL or less. Borderlines must be between cholesterol 200 to 239 mg / dL and high cholesterol around 240mg / dL.
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What Is Cholesterol And What Does It Do
What is cholesterol, and what does it do? I wont assume any prior biochemistry knowledge. So I wont tell you that cholesterol is a sterol lipid. But I can mention that it is a fat-like substance.
What does cholesterol do? It has vital functions in the human body. It is a constituent of cell membranes and a substance from which the body makes bile salts, vitamin D, and hormones such as progesterone and testosterone.
Without cholesterol, the human body would be unable to function. So it is good! Wait, but why is it bad then?
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Good Versus Bad Cholesterol
Cholesterol travels throughout your body via your blood and the two types are HDL and LDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is considered the good cholesterol, while LDL is considered the bad cholesterol.
Why? Because too much LDL cholesterol causes plaque to collect on the walls of your arteries, which hardens them. This hardening causes your blood vessels to narrow, which makes your circulation less efficient. Then your body has a harder time delivering all-important oxygen-filled blood to your organs and tissues.
The other serious thing that high LDL cholesterol increases your risk for is a blood clot, which can be deadly. If a clot forms, it can move and block blood from reaching your brain or heart, causing a stroke or heart attack.
Your HDL, or good cholesterol, on the other hand, does something not just good, but life-saving: It aids your body in removing LDL cholesterol from your arteries and delivering it to your liver, where its broken down and eliminated from your body.
We also measure a type of cholesterol you may not have heard of before, very-low-density lipoprotein, or VLDL. Unfortunately, its considered another type of bad cholesterol because, like LDL cholesterol, it again contributes to the accumulation of plaque on the walls of your arteries, and it even carries another kind of fat, triglycerides.
How Is Cholesterol Tested
A lipid panel is a blood test that measures your total cholesterol and breaks youre your good and bad cholesterol levels . In some cases, youll need to fast for 10 to 12 hours before this type of test, but non-fasting testing options are now increasingly available.
Its a simple, routine blood test, Dr. Cho says. A lot of people even get this type of blood test done at job screening health fairs.
Your cholesterol levels should be tested every five years or so, starting at age 20. But if youre considered high risk for heart disease or have other relevant health conditions, your doctor will want to test your levels more often.
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What Are The Ideal Levels Of Cholesterol
Your Lipid profile will indicate the levels of cholesterol but they are not absolute. You need to interpret them in the context of some others factors like Gender , Age , Body mass , Genetics and Lifestyle .
Cholesterol can be easily managed by making a change to two things – Diet and Lifestyle.
If your lifestyle includes smoking, drinking and getting little physical exercise, you are at high risk of getting Bad Cholesterol. Ditch the tobacco immediately, cut down your alcohol consumption and exercise 4 to 5 times a week, for at least 30 minutes.
Diet is easily manageable. Cut out junk foods, processed foods, trans fats and foods high in sugar or salt. Instead eat fresh produce of fruits and vegetables, dry fruits and drink lots of water. Add foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids to increase your HDL levels like flax seeds, salmon, sardines and tuna.
How To Lower Your Cholesterol
Your doctor can measure your cholesterol levels using a blood test. A high cholesterol level means you might be at risk of heart disease and stroke. You wont necessarily have any symptoms of having high cholesterol, so you doctor might test it regularly to keep an eye on your levels.
A cholesterol test looks at the amount of both HDL and LDL cholesterol in your body. It will also show your triglyceride level, which is a type of fat in your bloodstream, as high triglyceride levels can also indicate a higher risk of heart disease.
If youve had a test showing you have high cholesterol levels, lifestyle changes might help you to lower your levels. Reduce your cholesterol by:
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What Is The Difference Between Hdl And Ldl Cholesterol
HDL cholesterol, the good cholesterol, seems to act as a scavenger and carries LDL, the bad cholesterol out of the arteries and back to the liver. LDL cholesterol contributes to fatty buildups in the arteries , which results in deposits of cholesterol that narrow the arteries and increases the risk for a heart attack, stroke, other heart diseases, and peripheral artery disease. Moreover, triglycerides also are in the blood. Triglycerides can increase the risk for these diseases if there are low levels of HDL and high levels of LDL in the blood.
What Are VLDL ?
VLDL are compounds in the plasma of the blood composed of triglycerides, small amounts of cholesterol, phospholipids, fat-soluble vitamins, and protein. VLDL transports fats primarily from the liver to peripheral sites. Unfortunately, VLDL has been associated with the development of plaque deposits that can restrict blood flow, like LDL. Restricted bloodstream flow to any artery, especially a coronary artery, can lead to high blood pressure and other serious cardiovascular problems.
Can We Do Something About Bad Cholesterol
So high levels of low-density lipoproteins are bad. Can we do something about it?
If there are no medical contraindications, moderate exercisecan help raise the level of good cholesterol. The emphasis here is on the word moderate. You should ask your doctor for advice if you are undergoing treatment for a medical condition. If you are at least moderately healthy, moderate exercise cant really hurt you.
Exercise will also help you to lose weight, which reduces the amount of bad cholesterol in the circulation. Exercise also reduces your risk of heart disease and has many other health benefits. Our bodies require exercise. Exercised bones, muscle, fat, and other tissue release hormones that the body needs in order to function normally. Without exercise, these are deficient.
However, if a person is obese, weight loss should be gradual and supervised by a healthcare professional.
Speaking of weight, cutting down on fats in ones diet is also a good idea. Not to say that fats should be avoided entirely. Our body needs fat just as badly as it needs carbohydrates and proteins. But most people in the westernized world do not have the problem of too little fat in the diet. I could use a little less. So, unless youre an exception, eating less fat is a good idea.
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Bad Vs Good Cholesterol
When we check your cholesterol numbers, we look at your total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein and high-density lipoprotein numbers.
- LDL: bad cholesterol
- HDL: good cholesterol
LDL is the cholesterol that travels through your bloodstream and sticks to your artery walls causing the plaque buildup. A high level of LDL in your blood is associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
When HDL cholesterol travels through your blood, it collects LDL and other substances from your blood, reducing risk of plaque buildup. The HDL then takes the LDL to your liver, where its processed and eliminated from your body to help lower your cholesterol. When your HDL levels are high, your risk of heart disease decreases.
In addition to total cholesterol, LDL, and HDL, you may also notice very low-density lipoprotein numbers on your blood test. VLDL isnt directly measured on standard cholesterol tests, so the number is just an estimate. VLDL carries triglycerides, and like LDL, is considered a bad cholesterol because it contributes to plaque buildup.
For good health, we recommend adults aim for:
- Total cholesterol: less than 200 milligrams per deciliter
- LDL: less than 100 mg/dl
- HDL: greater than 40 mg/dl for men greater than 50 mg/dl for women
What Does Bad Cholesterol Do
Low-density lipoproteins transport cholesterol to cells and blood vessels in the body
The function of bad cholesterol isnt to cause health problems, we need a certain amount of LDL in the blood to live. There are certain factors that may lead to unhealthy levels of bad cholesterol therefore having a negative impact on ones overall health.
In simpler terms, bad cholesterol is referred to as such because it facilitates attachment of cholesterol and other lipids to the arteries, leading to blockages which often presents as a heart attack or a stroke.
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Cholesterol Is A Factor In The Development Of Many Health Conditions
Dr. Sekhon may speak with you about knowing your numbers being aware of some basic, but important numbers that tell you much about your health and your risk for serious conditions like heart attack and stroke.
Part of your annual wellness exam involves checking on these numbers, which include your blood pressure reading, weight, blood glucose level, and cholesterol. When these are in the healthy range, you have lots going for your health.
Signs Of High Cholesterol
Over 31% of people in the United States have high LDL cholesterol, according to the CDC. Most people dont know they have high cholesterol until a doctor checks their numbers because there are no noticeable outward symptoms.
The only accurate way to find out if your cholesterol is high is through a blood test. A cholesterol blood test measures cholesterol in milligrams per deciliter of blood . When you have your cholesterol checked, the results you receive should include:
Total Blood Cholesterol this includes HDL, LDL, and 20% of your total triglycerides.
Triglycerides you want this number to be under 150 mg/dL. Triglycerides are a commonly occurring type of fat. If your LDL is high and your triglycerides are highor your HDL is lowyou have a greater risk of developing atherosclerosis.
HDL the higher this number is, the better. Women should have at least 55 mg/dL and men should have at least 45 mg/dL.
LDL the lower this number is, the better. You want no more than 130 mg/dL if you have no other major risk factors . If you do have any mitigating conditions, you want no more than 100 mg/dL.
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The Difference Between Hdl & Ldl Cholesterols
Cholesterol is a fatty substance which means it does not dissolve in our bloodstream. Because of this, cholesterol needs a special way in which to move throughout the body. This transport system consists of two types of carriers.
Low Density Lipoprotein -cholesterol carries cholesterol from the liver through the bloodstream to the cells. LDL-cholesterol is called the bad cholesterol for good reason because as LDL-cholesterol moves through the body, excess LDL-cholesterol builds up on the inside of artery wall, which causes them to narrow and become less flexible. This is known as atherosclerosis and is what increases your chance of a heart attack, heart and blood vessel disease or stroke, which is why your LDL-cholesterol level has to be LOW.
High Density Lipoprotein -cholesterol returns the excess cholesterol that is not needed from the bloodstream back to the liver. The reason HDL-cholesterol is called good cholesterol is because HDL-cholesterol removes the bad cholesterol from the bloodstream.5B Some experts believe that HDL-cholesterol can even remove excess cholesterol from the artery wall, which is why your HDL-cholesterol level needs to be HIGH. A high HDL-cholesterol level seems to protect against heart disease.
Cholesterol Good And Bad
0:03 How the body uses cholesterol and how it can be good
0:22 How cholesterol can lead to plaques, atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease
0:52 Heart attack, coronary arteries
0:59 Stroke, carotid arteries, brain arteries
1:06 Peripheral artery disease
1:28 Bad cholesterol: LDL or low-density lipoprotein
1:41 Good cholesterol: HDL or high-density lipoprotein
2:13 Ways to prevent cholesterol related cardiovascular disease
2:43 National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
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What Is Good Cholesterol
Cholesterol travels through the blood on special proteins known as lipoprotein. One of those types of lipoprotein is called HDL, or high density lipoprotein. HDL absorbs cholesterol and takes it to the liver, where its flushed out of your body.
HDL plays an important role in reducing the amount of bad cholesterol in your bloodstream, which protects you from dangers like heart disease and stroke. Though high cholesterol is itself a health issue, its also possible to have too little HDL cholesterol. You need HDL to maintain a healthy level of cholesterol in your bloodstream.
Not All Cholesterol Is Bad
We cannot survive without cholesterol in our bodies because it performs some key functions. It is a waxy, fat-like substance found in all the cells in the body and essential to the body’s functioning. Cholesterol helps make certain hormones, it allows for natural production of Vitamin D and it helps make up bile acids without which digestion would not be possible. It is also important to the formation of cell walls.
It gets a bad name because too much cholesterol may lead to a buildup of plaque known as atherosclerosis. This can increase the risk of blood clots, increasing your risk of a stroke or heart attack.
You can keep a check on your cholesterol levels by a simple blood test called the Lipid Profile. This test will reveal Total Cholesterol, the Good Cholesterol and the Bad Cholesterol.
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What Are The Different Types Of Cholesterol
There are two types: high-density lipoprotein and low-density lipoprotein . As a general rule, HDL is considered good cholesterol, while LDL is considered bad. This is because HDL carries cholesterol to your liver, where it can be removed from your bloodstream before it builds up in your arteries. LDL, on the other hand, takes cholesterol directly to your arteries. This can result in atherosclerosis, a plaque buildup that can even cause heart attack and stroke.
Triglycerides make up the third component of cholesterol and act as unused calories that are stored as fat in the blood. Eating more calories than you burn can cause triglycerides to build up in the bloodstream, increasing your risk for heart attacks.
Tips To Change Your Numbers
The good news about cholesterol is that you can change your numbers. You can lower your total cholesterol and LDL numbers and improve HDL by making healthy food choices, being more active, and getting to and maintaining a healthy weight.
Adding specific foods to your diet may also help improve your numbers, such as:
- Eggplant and okra
The soluble fiber in the grains, fruits, and veggies grabs cholesterol in your gut and takes it out of your body. The healthy fats in salmon, soy, and nuts help reduce production of LDL.
If youre still having a tough time improving your cholesterol after making lifestyle changes, we may recommend medications — that lower your bad cholesterol and raise your good cholesterol — to help improve your health and lessen your risk of heart disease.
If youd like to know more about your cholesterol numbers and how we can help, call our office or book an appointment online.
You know getting your cholesterol checked is important, but you may wonder what all the numbers mean. At Pure Medicine, we use your cholesterol levels as a tool to help us assess your health and create a plan of action to either maintain your numbers or improve them. More specifically, we want your good cholesterol to be high and your bad cholesterol low.
Knowing what all the different numbers mean and why we want some numbers high and others low may help you better understand why this blood marker is so important for your health.
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