Cholesterol, HDL, and LDL

November 12, 2012

Cholesterol, HDL, and LDL

The terms used in the medical world for high cholesterol and the types that you can suffer on can be confusing. So what do they all mean?

While we all know we are supposed to keep our cholesterol levels down, and we may even have heard about HDL and LDL, it’s probably safe to say that not many of us really know what these terms mean.

  • Cholesterol – a lipid, which is not water soluble and therefore cannot move freely through the bloodstream on its’ own.

  • Lipoprotein – the method cholesterol uses to travel around the body, the protein coats the cholesterol molecule. (It is this combination which gives the name -lipid +protein = lipoprotein)

  • HDL – mostly referred to as ‘good cholesterol’, HDL – or High Density Lipoproteins – have more protein than cholesterol and will race through your body, stopping for nothing, until it reaches the liver and the cholesterol is then converted to bile acids.

  • LDL – this is the ‘bad cholesterol’ and is the result of more cholesterol than protein in the lipoprotein. As this travels through the bloodstream it tends to leave bits of itself behind – due, in part, to the presence of special receptors in cells which bind to the passing LDLs.

It is known that HDL does pick up any LDL it passes – but our levels of these lipoproteins are often out of kilter and, generally, there are more LDLs than HDLs.

But what does cholesterol actually do?

Although most of us know the negative effects of high cholesterol and its’ role in hardening of arteries, heart disease and stroke we may not know what it actually does in our body and cholesterol is a very useful substance – it helps to form cell membranes, is crucial for growth in babies and most of what we need is made in our bodies. High cholesterol does not affect only certain people – anyone can have this condition, fat, thin, old young, men and women, there may well be a genetic link to high cholesterol as well as the lifestyle factors most of us are aware of.

Achieving balance

Ideally we should have a good balance of HDL and LDL which will contribute to the good health of our heart. We all need some LDL and so should not try to eliminate it completely but rather maintain it at a low level – because of the role of HDL in taking the excess LDL away we should seek to increase levels of this lipoprotein.

  • One of the first things that can be done to achieve balance in cholesterol levels is to stop smoking – stopping smoking is vital for good health and should be at the top of your to-do list.

  • Another risk factor is excessive alcohol intake – alcohol is fine in moderation.

  • Increase intake of oily fish

  • Avoid foods which contain trans fats

A healthy and well balanced diet and stopping smoking are both things which can be done with immediate effect and will help to bring balance to your good and bad cholesterol.

Tags: , ,

Category: Articles