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Good vs. Bad Cholesterol: What You Need To Know

Good vs. Bad Cholesterol: What You Need To Know

Whenever you come across the word “cholesterol”, your first thought may be a negative one. Many harmful diseases and conditions are linked to cholesterol which is why it often has a bad reputation especially among those who are trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This aversion to cholesterol is misplaced because the body needs cholesterol to carry out its functions

Before acknowledging the bad stuff that cholesterol does to the body, it’s important to learn more about what cholesterol actually is and how it helps to keep you healthy.

All About Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance called a “lipid” that can be found in the bloodstream. Most of the cholesterol in our body is produced by the liver and the intestines, but we can also find cholesterol in the food that we eat. Cholesterol is measured through a blood test called a lipid panel or profile, but it also circulates in all the cells of the body.

Cholesterol plays many functions in the body. A type of white blood cell uses cholesterol to keep its membrane intact. The production of sex hormones like progesterone and testosterone make use of cholesterol. Cholesterol also assists the body in producing Vitamin D.

However, cholesterol can’t travel in the bloodstream as it is. Since it’s a fat, it won’t properly dissolve and travel throughout the bloodstream. This is where lipoproteins come into the picture. Lipoproteins are the body’s method to ensure that cholesterol can make its way to the parts of the body that need it.

Simply put, a lipoprotein is cholesterol in the form of protein-covered particles. This makes it easier for cholesterol to flow in the bloodstream. These lipoproteins come in many forms specifically made to perform different tasks. Lipoproteins also include what’s commonly referred to as “good” and “bad” cholesterol.

Good vs. Bad Cholesterol

The types of lipoproteins make up what’s known as good and bad cholesterol. These have three main types, namely:

  • High Density Lipoprotein (HDL): HDL plays the key function of carrying excess cholesterol from other organs in the body, back to the liver where it’s expelled from the body as a substance called bile. This is why High Density Lipoproteins are usually regarded as the “good” type of cholesterol.
  • Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL): LDL particles play the role of delivering cholesterol to the different tissues in the body. LDL also carries a higher concentration of cholesterol, which is why it’s usually referred to as “bad” cholesterol.

A high LDL cholesterol range becomes harmful for the body because it leads to build-up in the arteries.

  • Very Low Density Lipoprotein (VLDL): VLDL carries particles known as “triglycerides” to the tissue. Triglycerides come from excess calories that come with the food we eat. Very Low Density Lipoprotein can also promote build-up in the arteries which is why it’s also seen as a “bad” type of cholesterol.

One thing to take note of is that cholesterol and triglycerides differ from one another. Both cholesterol and triglycerides are fat that the body packaged into lipoproteins. However, the key difference between triglycerides vs. LDL, HDL, or VLDL lies in their functions.

Triglycerides simply store excess energy that comes from the food that we eat. Cholesterol plays many key functions in the body from hormone-production to the creation of cells.

High LDL Cholesterol Range: What Is It?

The liver makes all the cholesterol that the body needs to maintain its normal functions. The rest of the cholesterol stored in our body comes from the food we eat, this type of cholesterol is called “dietary cholesterol.”

Dietary cholesterol can come from meat, poultry, dairy, or even oil. These types of foods are also rich in trans fats which can encourage the liver to produce more cholesterol, making you more prone to having higher cholesterol levels.

High cholesterol can cause an accumulation of plaque in the arteries. Plauqe build-up can lead to reduced blood flow, which can put your health at risk and can cause complications like:

  • Stroke
  • Heart Attack
  • Chest Pain

High LDL Cholesterol Range: What Puts Me At Risk

Lots of factors and behaviors can contribute to high cholesterol, namely:

  • Unhealthy food choices, or a poor diet: A diet rich in saturated fat or trans fat, which are usually found in animal products or packaged goods can cause your cholesterol levels to rise. High cholesterol levels can also be influenced by eating red meat or dairy products.
  • Obesity: Being overweight makes the LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol level higher.
  • Lack of physical activity: A lack of physical activity can increase your chances of becoming overweight, which can put you at risk of having a higher cholesterol level.
  • Smoking: Smoking can be harmful for your arteries which make it more likely for them to accumulate fat deposits, which can lead to high cholesterol.
  • Age and gender: You’re more likely to have a higher cholesterol level as you age. Pre-menopausal women have also shown a lower cholesterol level than men of the same age.

How To Prevent High LDL Cholesterol Range

Healthy lifestyle choices always help lower the chances of developing serious health conditions like high cholesterol. Learning how to lower LDL cholesterol levels and boost HDL (good cholesterol) will help you determine which behaviors to quit and what habits you need to incorporate in your day to day life.

Some ways you can prevent high cholesterol are the following:

  • Exercise regularly: Exercising regularly encourages the production of HDL while making LDL particles bigger. Bigger LDL particles make them less likely to cause harm.
  • Change your diet: If you’re used to eating processed food or fast food, then you’ve already introduced more cholesterol into your body than it normally needs. Try incorporating more food that contains “good” fat like fish and nuts. Increasing the amount of vegetables and fruits in your diet will also make you less prone to having a high cholesterol level.
  • Quit your vices like drinking and smoking: It’s no secret that smoking and drinking have adverse effects on the body over time. Completely eliminating these harmful behaviors will benefit your health and overall well-being..

Key Takeaways

Cholesterol isn’t all that bad. In fact, the body needs cholesterol to carry out important functions and it needs to stay healthy. However, too much cholesterol in the body can lead to adverse effects on your health.

It’s best to seek the advice of a medical professional to know more about your body’s cholesterol levels, and what you can do to minimize the negative effects on your body.


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Written by Ruby Anne Hornillos Updated Jul 01
Medically reviewed by John Paul Ferolino Abrina, M.D.