Do You Know the Difference Between Good and Bad Cholesterol?

Medical experts declare that you need low cholesterol levels to be healthy. While doctors recommend you keep your total cholesterol below 200 mg/dL, you need some cholesterol to form cell membranes, so not all cholesterol is bad.

Cholesterol is a fatty, waxy substance that your body produces. Too much cholesterol can be harmful because it doesn’t dissolve in your blood. But not all cholesterol is created equal. Learn the difference between “good” and “bad” cholesterol.

Bad cholesterol

Even if your total cholesterol is in a healthy range, you also want to check your LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, levels. Too much LDL cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease.

LDL cholesterol leads to the development and buildup of plaque on the walls of your arteries, a condition known as atherosclerosis. The plaque causes your arteries to narrow, potentially blocking blood flow to your heart. Blood is your heart’s source of oxygen, so if your heart doesn’t get enough blood, it also doesn’t get enough oxygen, leading to chest pain and a potential heart attack.

Good cholesterol

High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is known as “good” cholesterol. HDL cholesterol actually scrubs the LDL cholesterol from your arteries, preventing the buildup of plaque. The HDL carries cholesterol from your blood and body back to your liver, where it’s then destroyed through natural waste removal processes.

Optimal levels of good and bad cholesterol

Your provider at Washington Healthcare Center can order a blood test to measure your cholesterol levels. While your total number should be under 200 mg/dL, you also want a low LDL number.

Ideally, your cholesterol ratio should be lower than 3.5, as per the American Heart Association.

Cholesterol ratio is figured by dividing your total cholesterol by your HDL number. So, for example,  if your total cholesterol is 190 and your HDL is 75, the ratio is 2.5 (190/75), and you have an ideal cholesterol ratio.

Minimizing bad cholesterol

You’re at risk of having higher LDL cholesterol levels if you eat a diet rich in saturated fat and cholesterol, are overweight or obese, and live a sedentary lifestyle. Smoking, genetics, certain medications, and chronic diseases, such as diabetes and kidney disease, can also raise your LDL levels.

Reduce LDL by making lifestyle changes that include following a heart-healthy diet that focuses on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats (fish, white-meat poultry, lean steak, and tofu), and healthy unsaturated fats. Quit smoking and lose extra pounds to further help get your LDL levels in check. A physically active lifestyle boosts your HDL levels too.

If you don’t get positive cholesterol changes with lifestyle changes, the doctors at Washington Healthcare Center may recommend cholesterol-lowering drugs to help reduce LDL levels and minimize plaque from forming in your arteries.

Have your cholesterol tested at Washington Healthcare Center. Men and women younger than 45 should have their cholesterol tested at least every five years; people older than 45 benefit from a cholesterol test once every year or two.


Call Washington Healthcare Center or book an appointment online to get your cholesterol tested today.


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