Cholesterol is a fatty substance that the body uses to build cells. Your body needs cholesterol to produce digestive juices, cell membranes, vitamin D, and hormones. Although your body needs some cholesterol, too much of it can result in fatty deposits and narrowing blood vessels. High cholesterol levels can lead to coronary artery disease, stroke, and even heart attack, so it is important to keep your levels at a healthy range.
Your cholesterol levels are made up of two main types, and the function of these types is very different. HDL (high-density lipoproteins) is considered the “good” cholesterol that your body needs to remove other types of cholesterol from the bloodstream. LDL (low-density lipoproteins) is considered the “bad” cholesterol that can lead to narrowing of the blood vessels. Continue reading to learn about the differences between HDL and LDL cholesterol and how to manage your cholesterol levels.
HDL cholesterol is considered the “good” cholesterol because it removes bad cholesterol by carrying it to the liver. The liver then effectively eliminates it from your body. Higher levels of HDL cholesterol are better and can prevent coronary artery disease, vascular disease, and stroke. The best way to raise your HDL level is to eat a healthy diet that contains good fats instead of bad fats. Staying at a healthy weight, exercising, and avoiding alcohol and cigarettes are also good ways to raise your HDL cholesterol level.
There are certain cholesterol medications that can raise HDL and lower LDL levels in the body. These medications aren’t usually prescribed unless you have a high LDL cholesterol level.
Considered the “bad” cholesterol, LDL is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and other vascular problems. When LDL cholesterol builds up in your bloodstream, it forms fatty deposits in your blood vessels and makes them much narrower. Narrowing of the blood vessels increases your risk of a blockage and has been linked to conditions such as high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, stroke, vascular disease, and heart attack.
LDL cholesterol comes from the foods we eat and the lifestyles we lead. Having a diet that is high in fat increases your risk of developing high “bad” cholesterol levels. Obesity, lack of exercise, alcoholism, smoking, liver disease, sedentary lifestyle, diabetes, and genetics can also contribute to your LDL cholesterol level.
How To Lower “Bad” Cholesterol
Eating a heart-healthy diet is the best way to manage your cholesterol levels and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. Foods to avoid include butter, margarine, ghee, goose fat, lard, fatty meats, coconut oil, palm oil, and full fat dairy products. Good foods to eat include oatmeal, whole grains, leafy greens, fruits and vegetables, nuts, soybeans, red wine, salmon, tuna, black tea, and garlic. It is also important to eat plenty of fiber, exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy weight.