The Differences Between Good and Bad Cholesterol

The Differences Between Good and Bad Cholesterol

High cholesterol has long been one of the leading health problems in the United States. Across the country, some 95 million adults have high cholesterol, which can lead to heart disease and stroke. But our bodies naturally produce cholesterol, and it’s found in many foods, including foods that fit into a healthy, balanced diet.

One key to sorting this all out is understanding the different types of cholesterol. There’s both “good” and “bad” cholesterol, but the difference between the two may not be clear. Learning the difference can help you understand the results of your next lipid panel and better manage your cholesterol.

With his extensive experience, Dr. Shawn Veiseh can help you manage high cholesterol and understand the potential health consequences.

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 it’s 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, it’s also possible to have too little HDL cholesterol. You need HDL to maintain a healthy level of cholesterol in your bloodstream.

What is bad cholesterol?

Cholesterol also travels on low density lipoproteins (LDL), also known as “bad” cholesterol. LDL makes up most of the cholesterol in your body. 

If you have a high level of LDL cholesterol, plaque can build up in your blood vessels. This leads to a narrowing and hardening of your arteries, which blocks the flow of blood to your heart and other organs. The long-term consequences of high LDL cholesterol can be very serious, including stroke and heart disease.

Though you may be genetically more likely to have high cholesterol than others, your lifestyle and habits usually play a role. Common contributors include an unhealthy diet and not getting enough exercise. Your risk increases with age, and other health conditions like diabetes can raise your risk as well. 

How is bad cholesterol treated?

Your lifestyle is a good start. For example, you can lower your salt intake and work more healthy fats into your diet, like avocados, fish, and nuts. If you’re carrying excess weight, losing weight through exercise can control your cholesterol and improve blood flow. Your habits also affect your cholesterol, so you should drink alcohol in moderation (if at all) and quit all forms of tobacco.

Depending on your condition, Dr. Veiseh may recommend medication to reduce bad cholesterol or raise your good cholesterol, including statins, niacin, and fibrates. These medications are most effective when you combine them with lifestyle changes.

To arrange a cholesterol blood test or get help on managing your cholesterol, make an appointment with Dr. Veiseh online or over the phone.

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