Good Cholesterol vs. Bad Cholesterol
Cholesterol is generally thought to be something that is unhealthy. Many foods in the grocery store have labels on them about cholesterol warnings. The products that have a lower amount of cholesterol are considered to be healthier. But you might be surprised to know that not all cholesterol is bad for you. In fact, the right kind of cholesterol can have some very positive benefits.
How Cholesterol is Transported
Unlike some other elements, cholesterol is not absorbed into the blood. Because of its properties, it does not have the ability to dissolve in blood. Instead, it needs to be transported to and from the cells. Lipoproteins are the main carriers of cholesterol and there are two basic types of them: high-density and low-density. Together, the high-density cholesterol and the low-density cholesterol, combined with triglycerides and Lp(a) cholesterol, form the total cholesterol count that can be analyzed with a blood test.
Each type of cholesterol is different and generates a unique response from the body. The high-density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as the good cholesterol, carries approximately one-third to one-fourth of blood cholesterol. According to medical research, high levels of HDL can be an effective protection against a heart attack. Lower levels of HDL, which is defined as less than 40mg/dL, have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
The low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is identified as the bad cholesterol. If too much of it is circulated throughout the blood stream, the LDL gradually builds up along the inner walls of the arteries. This is especially dangerous because those inner walls are responsible for feeding the heart and the brain. Over time, the arteries become narrowed and less flexible due to hard plaque deposits. When the arteries are blocked, a condition called atherosclerosis can occur. A heart attack or stroke happens if a narrow artery is blocked too much by a clot.
HDL Cholesterol vs. LDL Cholesterol
High-density lipoproteins are clearly the preferred choice over low-density lipoproteins for a number of reasons. Experts have studied HDL and how they apparently carry cholesterol away from the arteries. With HDL as the carrier, the cholesterol is taken to the liver and passed from the body in a normal way. Also, HDL might even be removing the excess cholesterol from the plaque that has formed on the arteries. The build-up of plaque is substantially reduced, leading to a lessened risk of heart problems.
As mentioned above, HDL and LDL are accompanied by triglycerides. They are categorized as a type of fat that is raised or lowered along with the cholesterol levels. Being overweight or obese, smoking, lack of physical activity, drinking excessively, and poor diet are some of the causes of high triglycerides. Typically, people with high levels of triglycerides also have a high level of LDL and a low level of HDL. It is common for people with high triglycerides to have heart disease and/or diabetes as well. Lp(a) cholesterol, a variation of LDL, can assist in the fatty deposits in arteries. Although it has not been fully evaluated, Lp(a) is associated with the bad cholesterol, and could interact with other substances that are located in artery walls. Everyone has different nutritional needs, so check with your doctor to design a diet that increases your amount of HDL, good cholesterol, through healthy foods.