Cholesterol: Good VS Bad and What’s the Difference?
It’s highly likely that at some point you’ve heard someone say they have to lower their cholesterol, or are eating foods to prevent high cholesterol. Maybe you have even worried about having high cholesterol yourself. But what is cholesterol? Why is some cholesterol good, and some is bad?
Cholesterol exists in every cell that is in the human body. It travels through the blood on proteins called “lipoproteins.” Cholesterol has very important functions in the human body such as digesting foods, creating vitamin D, and producing hormones. But what makes some cholesterol good and some cholesterol bad?
HDL cholesterol is what is considered to be the “good cholesterol.” HDL stands for high-density lipoproteins. HDL cholesterol is considered the good cholesterol because it protects against heart disease by taking the "bad" cholesterol out of your blood by flushing it through your liver, keeping it from building up in your arteries. When you get your cholesterol levels checked at the doctor’s through a blood test, when it comes to HDL cholesterol, higher numbers are better. Having a higher level of HDL cholesterol can lower your risk for coronary artery disease and stroke.
LDL cholesterol is what is considered to be the “bad cholesterol.” LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein. LDL cholesterol is considered to be bad because it collects in the walls of your blood vessels. This can cause a blockage that forms into a blood clot. Higher levels of LDL raise your chances of a heart attack. When you have high levels of LDL, you can work with your doctor to develop a personal plan to lower your LDL levels. To make the plan personal to you, your doctor will take a look at your cholesterol level, your age, whether or not you are a smoker, and if you are on medication to control your blood pressure. The plan you and your doctor come up with can end up being a complete lifestyle and diet change, or medication that will lower your cholesterol and risk of heart disease.
What Can You Do?
You actually have a lot of control over your cholesterol levels! A healthy diet can significantly impact your cholesterol levels. To raise your HDL level, you need to eat good fats instead of bad fats. This means limiting saturated fats, such as full-fat milk and cheese, fatty meats such as sausage and bacon, and avoid consuming foods that are made with butter and shortening. You can lower your LDL levels by cutting out simple carbs such as sugar and white breads. Exercising regularly can also raise your HDL levels, as well as lower your LDL levels. Avoid second-hand smoke and smoking. Smoking raises your HDL levels. Maintaining a healthy weight, and losing body fat around your waist can also help raise your HDL levels while lowering your LDL levels.
Maintaining your good cholesterol and lowering you bad cholesterol is extremely important to your health. People over the age of 20 are urged to get their cholesterol levels checked at least once every five years. Do your best to maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and avoid smoking and cigarette smoke. Take care of your body, and it will take care of you.