Cholesterol can be a confusing subject. On one hand, we’re told that we need to lower it in our blood and avoid eating it in foods. However, doctors also talk about wanting to get “good” cholesterol levels higher. Let’s try to clear up some of the confusion.
Types of Cholesterol
Cholesterol is an important compound in our bodies. Its job is to help build cells, insulate nerves and contribute to hormone production. The problems start when we take in too much cholesterol from our diet. This excess can build up in our blood and is a known contributor to heart disease.
Technically, there’s no such thing as “good” cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol. It’s all the same in our body—the difference between the two is how our bodies process it:
- HDL cholesterol (the good kind) is a cholesterol transporter that removes it from our blood
- LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) is not removed from our bodies, but accumulates on the walls of our arteries. This clogs them and lowers their flexibility, causing many cardiovascular problems.
- Triglycerides are another type of fat our bodies produce, commonly tested alongside HDL and LDL cholesterol levels
Cholesterol and Health
When doctors say they want to see lower cholesterol levels, they’re mainly referring to the LDL level in your blood. HDL, LDL and triglycerides all have certain ranges that doctors use to determine your level of heart disease risk.
If your bad cholesterol levels are too high, you can take several steps to correct them:
- Changing your dietary habits to reduce consumption of fatty meats
- Increasing your amount of exercise
- Medications can be used to help moderate blood cholesterol
Your doctor can help you design a routine to lower your blood cholesterol and get your health back to where it should be.