What Is The Difference Between Good And Bad Cholesterol
Cholesterol is classified as good or bad and its important to understand the distinction when choosing your diet. Cholesterol travels through the body in two types of lipoproteins:
The United States Department of Agriculture recommends that we limit saturated fats to less than 10% of our daily calorie consumption. This means restricting our intake of bad cholesterol.
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Cholesterol And Heart Health
Cholesterol is found in every cell in your body, according to an article from MedLinePlus. It helps your body produce hormones and vitamin D. Even though it’s important, you don’t need any extra cholesterol through your diet. Your body makes enough.
If you have too much cholesterol floating around your bloodstream, it can combine with other elements like fat and calcium to create plaque, explains an article from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
Plaque can stick to the sides of your arteries, where it will calcify and harden. A little bit of plaque isn’t dangerous, but over time plaque builds up. Eventually, it can block the artery and prevent blood flow. This process is called atherosclerosis, according to the National Heart, Lunge and Blood Institute.
If this happens in the small arteries that send blood to the heart, called the coronary arteries, it can block blood flow to the heart. This is called coronary artery disease, and it’s the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, according to an article from MedLinePlus.
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It’s important to keep your cholesterol levels under control to prevent plaque from building up. Atherosclerosis is a long-term process, so that sooner you start the better.
Myth: All Cholesterol Is Bad For You
Fact: Some types of cholesterol are essential for good health. Your body needs cholesterol to perform important jobs, such as making hormones and building cells. Cholesterol travels through the blood on proteins called lipoproteins. Two types of lipoproteins carry cholesterol throughout the body:
- LDL ,sometimes called badcholesterol, makes up most of your bodys cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol raise your risk for heart disease and stroke.
- HDL ,or goodcholesterol, carries cholesterol back to the liver. The liver then flushes it from the body. High levels of HDL cholesterol can lower your risk for heart disease and stroke.
When your body has too much LDL cholesterol, it can build up in the walls of your blood vessels. This buildup is called plaque. As your blood vessels build up plaque over time, the insides of the vessels narrow. This narrowing can restrict and eventually block blood flow to and from your heart and other organs. When blood flow to the heart is blocked, it can cause angina or a heart attack.
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Know Your Cholesterol Levels
The first defense against out-of-whack cholesterol levels is knowledge. Once youâre aware of your current cholesterol levels, you can take steps to lower your LDL cholesterol level, increase your HDL cholesterol level, or both.
To determine your cholesterol levels, youâll need a lipid profileâa test result that comes from a blood sample. There are a few ways to obtain this result, including:
- Making an appointment with your healthcare provider
- Learning before taking an at-home test, such as the from Everlywell
Once you know how to compare HDL and LDL in your test results, a lipid profile can tell you if youâre doing everything right or if it might be time to change your habits. If you are wanting to take an at-home test it is important to properly learn how to test lipids and cholesterol levels because there are many options to choose from. Once you have decided on a test, you should learn how to understand cholesterol test results to better decipher your levels.
Hdl: The Good But Complex Cholesterol
More HDL cholesterol is better, but the benefits may depend on how you get there.
In the simplest telling of the cholesterol story, HDL fights LDL . Like knights in shining armor, HDL particles patrol the blood vessels, snatching cholesterol from circulating LDL particles and from the dangerous, gooey plaque that lines artery walls. The knights of the HDL cholesterol carry their fatty cargo to the liver for recycling or disposal.
The real story isn’t quite so simple. HDL cholesterol is turning out to be a much more complex substance than we once believed. Instead of a single kind of particle, HDL cholesterol is a family of different particles. Although they all contain lipids , cholesterol, and proteins called apolipoproteins, some types are spherical while others are doughnut-shaped. Some types of HDL are great at plucking cholesterol from LDL and artery walls while other types are indifferent to cholesterol, and some even transfer cholesterol the wrong way into LDL and cells.
To further complicate matters, different HDL types do more than just carry cholesterol. Some protect LDL from being chemically altered by oxygen, a change that makes LDL extra harmful to artery walls. Under some circumstances, though, they can do just the opposite. Various HDL particles can ease inflammation in artery walls, stimulate production of nitric oxide, a molecule that helps artery walls relax, and help prevent blood clots from forming inside arteries.
How Can I Lower My Cholesterol Level
The first step in reducing your cholesterol is to maintain a healthy, balanced diet. It’s important to keep your diet low in fatty food.
You can swap food containing saturated fat for fruit, vegetables and wholegrain cereals. This will also help prevent high cholesterol returning.
If these measures don’t reduce your cholesterol and you continue to have a high risk of developing heart disease, your GP may prescribe a cholesterol-lowering medication, such as statins.
Your GP will take into account the risk of any side effects from statins. The benefit of lowering your cholesterol must outweigh any risks.
Read more about how high cholesterol is treated
How Do I Know What My Ldl Level Is
A blood test can measure your cholesterol levels, including LDL. When and how often you should get this test depends on your age, risk factors, and family history. The general recommendations are:
For people who are age 19 or younger::
- The first test should be between ages 9 to 11
- Children should have the test again every 5 years
- Some children may have this test starting at age 2 if there is a family history of high blood cholesterol, heart attack, or stroke
For people who are age 20 or older::
- Younger adults should have the test every 5 years
- Men ages 45 to 65 and women ages 55 to 65 should have it every 1 to 2 years
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Cholesterol Content Of Foods
If you have risk factors for heart disease, you should not consume more than 200 milligrams of cholesterol a day.
If you do not have risk factors for heart disease, you should limit your cholesterol intake to no more than 300 milligrams a day.
Use the following tables to check the cholesterol and fat content of the foods you eat. This will help you keep track of your daily cholesterol intake.
Note: Cholesterol is only found in animal products. Fruits, vegetables, grains and all other plant foods do not have any cholesterol at all.
Cheddar Cheese1 oz30
UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.
Transport Into The Cell
When a cell requires additional cholesterol , it synthesizes the necessary LDL receptors as well as PCSK9, a proprotein convertase that marks the LDL receptor for degradation. LDL receptors are inserted into the plasma membrane and diffuse freely until they associate with clathrin-coated pits. When LDL receptors bind LDL particles in the bloodstream, the clathrin-coated pits are endocytosed into the cell.
Vesicles containing LDL receptors bound to LDL are delivered to the endosome. In the presence of low pH, such as that found in the endosome, LDL receptors undergo a conformation change, releasing LDL. LDL is then shipped to the lysosome, where cholesterol esters in the LDL are hydrolysed. LDL receptors are typically returned to the plasma membrane, where they repeat this cycle. If LDL receptors bind to PCSK9, however, transport of LDL receptors is redirected to the lysosome, where they are degraded.
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What Health Problems Can High Cholesterol Cause
If you have large deposits of plaque in your arteries, an area of plaque can rupture . This can cause a blood clot to form on the surface of the plaque. If the clot becomes large enough, it can mostly or completely block blood flow in a coronary artery.
Plaque also can build up in other arteries in your body, including the arteries that bring oxygen-rich blood to your brain and limbs. This can lead to problems such as carotid artery disease, stroke, and peripheral arterial disease.
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What Are Tryglycerides
Triglycerides are another type of blood fat. Most triglycerides enter the blood stream after a meal, and some are also made by your liver.
Triglycerides are packaged into lipoproteins along with cholesterol. When they reach the cells throughout your body, they are used for energy or stored for later.
It’s useful to have your triglycerides tested when you get a cholesterol check. A high triglyceride level should be investigated by your GP. There can be many reasons for raised triglycerides and it’s important to find out the exact cause. Raised triglycerides can add to your risk of developing heart disease, and if they’re very high, they can cause other serious problems such as pancreatitis.
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What Ldl Levels Mean
When you have your cholesterol checked, you usually receive a consultation to help explain what the measures mean. As mentioned, high LDL levels are a red flag, as are those of triglycerides when the latter are also higher than normal, it can be a sign that atherosclerosis has already developed.
LDL levels are broken down into five specific categories, defined as optimal and near optimal, often considered healthy ranges, as well as borderline high, high, and very high. The results are expressed as milligrams per deciliter .
|Healthy LDL Ranges|
|190 mg/dL and higher|
What Is A Healthy Blood Cholesterol Level
For people who have plaque in their arteries or who have other factors that put them at risk for cardiovascular disease, doctors recommend an ideal LDL level well below 70 mg/dl. For those without risk factors who have an LDL level at or above 190 mg/dl, the recommendation is to get this level down to below 100 mg/dl. People age 40 to 75 who are living with diabetes and whose LDL is at 70 or above may need medication.
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Shrimp: 3587 Mg 120% Daily Value
Shrimp and other shellfish tend to be high in cholesterol. Case in point: Youâll get 120 percent of the DV for cholesterol in 6 ounces of cooked shrimp, but itâs low in total and saturated fat.
The American Heart Association recommends lowering saturated fat intake to keep cholesterol levels at bay and supports shrimp as a healthy alternative to proteins higher in saturated fat.
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What Are Trans Fatty Acids
Trans fatty acids are formed when a liquid fat is changed into a solid fat through a process called hydrogenation. Many manufacturers use hydrogenated fats in their ingredients because it creates a product with an extended shelf life and better consistency.
Trans fatty acids are especially bad for you. They raise the levels of LDL cholesterol in your blood and lower the levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.
There are currently no safe levels of trans fat to consume each day, so avoid them completely or eat them as little as possible.
Many manufacturers have stopped using or greatly reduced the amount of trans fats in their foods. But, check the label and avoid:
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Why Should I Lower My Cholesterol
Evidence strongly indicates that high cholesterol can increase the risk of:
- narrowing of the arteries
- transient ischaemic attack often known as a “mini stroke”
- peripheral arterial disease
This is because cholesterol can build up in the artery wall, restricting the blood flow to your heart, brain and the rest of your body. It also increases the risk of a blood clot developing somewhere in your body.
Your risk of developing coronary heart disease also rises as your blood’s cholesterol level increases. This can cause pain in your chest or arm during stress or physical activity .
What Are Normal Cholesterol Levels
People who do not have heart disease should aim for the following cholesterol levels:
|Cholesterol Test Results||Clinical Meaning|
|Total cholesterol below 200 mg/dL||Levels above 200 mg/dL are considered high and mean a higher risk for developing heart disease|
|LDL cholesterol below 130 mg/dL||LDL should be lower than this for those at risk of heart attacks or stroke|
|HDL cholesterol above 60 mg/dL||
|Triglycerides below 150 mg/dL||Levels higher than 150 mg/dL increase the risk of developing heart disease and metabolic syndrome, which is also a risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke|
|Non-HDL cholesterol below 160 mg/dL||
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Are Test Results Accurate
While no test is always accurate, measurements of blood cholesterol are an effective tool for estimating your risk of cardiovascular disease. Various factors can affect the accuracy of a cholesterol test:
- Direct vs calculated testing: While calculated LDL cholesterol levels are sufficient in most cases, direct testing provides more accurate results in patients with elevated triglyceride levels. Patients who may have elevated triglyceride levels include those diagnosed with type II diabetes or obesity, patients with a history of considerable alcohol intake, and patients taking medication to increase triglycerides.
- Fasting: In most cases, a lipid profile requires fasting. Eating within 8-12 hours before a lipid panel may increase the level of triglycerides in your bloodstream. Because this increased level of triglycerides could affect the accuracy of calculated LDL cholesterol values, your doctor may request that you refrain from eating prior to your blood draw.
Lack Of Physical Activity
Certainly related to the above, insufficient physical activity can also drive LDL higher. The good news, however, is that even modest increases in the amount of exercise you get can help a great deal. Ideally, doctors may want you getting up to 90 minutes a day of physical activity however, even 30 to 45 minutes regularly can be helpful.
At bare minimum, the surgeon general recommends that adults get 2.5 hours of moderate exercise every week. This can include:
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Which Foods Can Help Lower Cholesterol
The American Heart Association has developed diet guidelines to help lower cholesterol levels. It may be a challenge to read the nutritional contents on food packaging and on restaurant menus or to do the math, but the benefit will decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Limit total fat intake to less than 25% to 35% of your total calories each day.
- Limit saturated fat intake to less than 7% of total daily calories.
- Limit trans fat intake to less than 1% of total daily calories.
- The remaining fat should come from sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that are found in unsalted nuts and seeds, fish and vegetable oils.
- Limit cholesterol intake to less than 300 mg per day, for most people. If you have coronary heart disease or your LDL cholesterol level is 100 mg/dL or greater, limit your cholesterol intake to less than 200 milligrams a day.
Some food groups may be beneficial in directly lowering cholesterol levels and include foods with plant sterol additives, high fiber foods like bran, oatmeal, and fruits like apples and pears, fish, nuts, and olive oil. Some of these foods like nuts and fruits are also high in calories, so moderation is always advisable.