Health & Wellness

Confused by Cholesterol?


There’s the good stuff and the bad stuff, but which is which, and why is one good and the other not good? HDL vs LDL?? Does that make you just LOL?

If like most of us you don’t know (or can never remember), you also probably don’t know that September is Cholesterol Education Month. So you’re in luck. Here’s our quick primer on Cholesterol 101.

What is cholesterol? Cholesterol is a molecule that the liver creates that is essential for the building and maintenance of cells. If your good vs. bad cholesterol levels are off kilter, then plaque can form in your arteries that can lead to cardiovascular disease, including stroke and heart attack.

What’s LDL? Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) travel through the blood stream bringing cholesterol to organs and tissue in the body. They’re the delivery truck, which is good and useful. The problem is when excess LDL doesn’t get picked up by their pal, HDL, and broken down in the liver and passed through the body, then it can start to clump and cause narrowing and hardening in the arteries (atherosclerosis) and that leads to cardiovascular disease.

What is HDL? High-density lipoproteins are the clean-up crew, traveling behind LDLs to pick up and return LDL to the liver, where it is broken down.

So where’s the problem? “Problems arise when either ‘bad’ or LDL cholesterol exists in excess, or when levels of ‘good’ (HDL) cholesterol aren’t high enough,” says Dr. Jeb Hallett of the Roper Heart & Vascular Center.

Recommended levels for men: Men should aim for:

  • HDL levels of 40 – 49 mg of cholesterol per deciliter of blood
  • LDL levels no higher than 100 – 129 mg/dL (below 100 if family history or preexisting conditions)

Recommended levels for women: Women should aim for:

  • HDL levels of 50 – 59 mg/dL
  • LDL levels no higher than 100 – 129 mg/dL (below 100 if family history or preexisting conditions)

 

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