Cholesterol is a waxy substance that our bodies need to build cells and make vitamins and other hormones. While cholesterol is not inherently bad, too much of it can cause serious health problems. There are actually two types of cholesterol: HDL and LDL. HDL is considered the good kind of cholesterol and LDL is considered the bad kind of cholesterol. Keep reading to learn more about HDL and LDL cholesterol.
Main Differences between HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein) and LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein)
Function: HDL cholesterol is often referred to as “good” cholesterol because it helps remove excess cholesterol from the bloodstream and transports it back to the liver for disposal. On the other hand, LDL cholesterol is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol because it can build up on the walls of arteries, leading to blockages and increasing the risk of heart disease.
Density: HDL cholesterol is denser and contains more protein than LDL cholesterol, which is less dense and contains more fat.
Health effects: High levels of HDL cholesterol are associated with a lower risk of heart disease, while high levels of LDL cholesterol are associated with a higher risk of heart disease.
Normal levels: A healthy level of HDL cholesterol is generally considered to be above 60 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), while a healthy level of LDL cholesterol is generally considered to be less than 100 mg/dL.
It’s important to note that while HDL and LDL cholesterol are often talked about as “good” and “bad,” respectively, it’s really a balance of the two that is important for overall health. A complete cholesterol test will also measure other types of cholesterol and triglycerides, which together give a more complete picture of cardiovascular health.
HDL cholesterol, also known as “good” cholesterol, can help protect against heart disease by carrying excess cholesterol from the blood vessels to the liver for removal. There are several lifestyle changes you can make to raise your HDL cholesterol levels:
- Engage in regular physical activity: Exercise can help raise your HDL cholesterol levels. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, such as brisk walking, cycling, or swimming.
- Quit smoking: Smoking can lower HDL cholesterol levels, so quitting smoking can help raise them.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese can lower HDL cholesterol levels. Losing weight through a healthy diet and regular exercise can help raise them.
- Consume healthy fats: Eating foods that contain healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish, nuts, and seeds, can help raise HDL cholesterol levels.
- Limit your intake of refined carbohydrates and sugary foods: Consuming too many refined carbohydrates and sugary foods can lower HDL cholesterol levels, so it’s best to limit your intake of these foods.
LDL cholesterol is also known as the “bad” cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol can increase your risk of developing heart disease and stroke. Here are some lifestyle changes you can make to lower your LDL cholesterol levels:
- Adopt a healthy diet: A heart-healthy diet can help lower LDL cholesterol levels. This means consuming plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein sources, and healthy fats like those found in nuts, seeds, and fatty fish. Limit your intake of saturated and trans fats, found in red meat, full-fat dairy products, and fried foods, as well as added sugars and refined carbohydrates.
- Engage in regular physical activity: Regular exercise can help lower LDL cholesterol levels. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, such as brisk walking, cycling, or swimming.
- Lose weight if you’re overweight or obese: Losing weight through a healthy diet and regular exercise can help lower LDL cholesterol levels.
- Quit smoking: Smoking can raise LDL cholesterol levels, so quitting smoking can help lower them.
- Limit alcohol consumption: Drinking alcohol in moderation may help raise HDL cholesterol levels, but excessive alcohol consumption can increase triglyceride levels and lead to high LDL cholesterol levels.
- Consider medication: If lifestyle changes alone are not enough to lower your LDL cholesterol levels, your healthcare provider may prescribe medication to help. Common medications used to lower LDL cholesterol include statins, which are effective in reducing LDL cholesterol levels.
It is important to note that the best way to lower cholesterol levels will depend on your individual body, genetics and medical history. You should keep track of your cholesterol levels and what lifestyle changes seem to work best for you. You should consult with a qualified healthcare professional who can provide personalized advice and guidance, but you should also familiarize yourself with your own health situation. Schedule your initial consultation at our integrative medicine clinic in Miami to get started on your health and wellness journey.