Bad Cholesterol vs. Good Cholesterol

So what do those cholesterol numbers really mean? Here is some information to provide you with a general understanding between “Good” and “Bad” cholesterol.

“Bad” Cholesterol
Low density lipoproteins, or LDLs, are the second smallest of five lipoproteins in the body and carry lipids and triglycerides through the body. LDLs have a lower density of proteins compared to lipids. Low density lipoproteins cholesterol (LDL-C), or “bad cholesterol,” is cholesterol that travels through the body while attached to LDLs. LDL-C can have very negative effects on the body, as increased levels can lead to clogged arteries, which in turn can initiate heart disease.

Reducing “bad” cholesterol
It is important to maintain low levels of LDL-C. There are a number of ways that a person can decrease LDL-C, including lifestyle changes and prescribed medication.

Lifestyle changes: One should decrease fat intake and avoid foods that are high in saturated fats and instead include those with monosaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats (found in peanut, canola and olive oils) and soluble fiber. In addition to modifying your diet, regular exercise, reducing alcohol consumption and cessation of smoking can decrease LDL-C levels and increase HDL-C levels, which combat the negative effects of “bad cholesterol.”

Prescribed medicine: Since higher levels of LDL-C have been linked to increased risk for heart disease, doctors may prescribe drugs that counter increasing levels. Drugs that, in conjunction with diet and exercise, may work to increase HDL-C levels include statins and nicotinic acid. Triglycerides, other harmful materials that may be transported by LDL, can be decreased with fibrates.

“Good” Cholesterol
High density lipoproteins, or HDLs, are the smallest of five lipoproteins in the body and carry lipids and triglycerides through the body. High density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) is cholesterol that travels through the body while attached to HDLs. The body benefits from increased levels of HDL-C because the HDLs remove cholesterol from the arteries and prevent excess buildup which can lead to heart disease. HDL then carries cholesterol back to the liver, where it can be used effectively. HDL-C is thus labeled “good cholesterol” for its ability to push the travel of lipids and triglycerides through the blood stream.

Increasing “good” cholesterol
It is important to maintain higher levels of HDL-C to combat the effects of LDL-C, or “bad cholesterol.” Generally speaking, a healthy person will have about 1/3 of their cholesterol carried by HDL. Women generally have higher levels of “good” cholesterol than men. However, men and women can both increase HDL-C levels with the aid of lifestyle changes and prescribed medication.

Lifestyle changes: Diet and exercise can also serve to raise HDL-C levels. One should decrease fat intake and avoid foods that are high in saturated fats and instead include those with monosaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats (found in peanut, canola and olive oils) and soluble fiber. In addition to modifying your diet, regular exercise, reducing alcohol consumption and cessation of smoking can increase HDL-C levels.

Prescribed medicine: Since lower levels of HDL-C have been linked to increased risk for heart disease, doctors may prescribe drugs that counter decreasing levels, while lowering LDL-C levels. These drugs, in conjunction with diet and exercise, may work to increase HDL-C levels, include nicotinic acid and fibrates.