Cholesterol is a substance your body uses to produce hormones, vitamin D and digestive juices to break down fats in your diet.
Your body needs some cholesterol to function. However, when the levels get too high, build up occurs in the artery and obstructs blood flow. This can lead to coronary artery disease, heart attacks, strokes or other vascular diseases.
In today’s blog, we’ll compare HDL vs. LDL cholesterol and teach you practical ways to improve your levels and reduce your risk of a coronary event.
(Suffering from heart disease? Grab our free guide to learn how you can manage it moving forward.)
First, there are two types of cholesterol: high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). Lipoproteins are made of fat, protein and help cholesterol travel through your blood. HDL is commonly known as “good” cholesterol while LDL is regarded as its evil twin.
There’s a third type of cholesterol called very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL), which is even worse and contains a high amount of triglycerides. But in most cases, you’ll be managing the first two.
You may be wondering, what causes “bad” LDL cholesterol? The most common factors include a high-fat diet, sedentary lifestyle, obesity or other metabolic syndromes, genetics, alcoholism, liver disease, diabetes and smoking.
To combat the effects of these factors, we recommend a heart-healthy diet rich in fiber and plant-based foods. Vegetarian and vegan diets have been shown to significantly reduce LDL cholesterol levels and blocked arteries.
It’s time to get to the good stuff. As you work to reduce the “bad” cholesterol, you may find that raising your HDL levels with diet alone is difficult. Losing weight, quitting smoking and cutting sugar from your diet are some other ways to improve the number. If your HDL is particularly low, discuss treatment options with your doctor to help increase these levels.
Making Sense of the Numbers
Now that you understand the two main types of cholesterol, it’s time to play the numbers game. According to the Centers for Disease Control, over 31% of Americans have high LDL cholesterol.
Unfortunately, many people aren’t aware they have it because high cholesterol itself does not cause symptoms. They may experience fatigue, pressure or chest pain but fail to associate it with the risk of heart disease.
Truly, the best way to learn if your LDL cholesterol is high is through a blood test. In the United States, cholesterol is measured in milligrams per deciliter of blood. However, this may vary between regions so it’s wise to speak with your physician.
After the blood test, they’ll discuss these four numbers with you.
- Total Blood Cholesterol – Aim below 200 mg/dL
- Triglycerides – Aim below 150 mg/dL
- LDL – Aim below 100 mg/dL
- HDL – Aim above 40 mg/dL
Knowledge is the First Step Towards Prevention
If you don’t know your cholesterol levels, you’ll have no idea whether you’re at risk for heart disease or stroke. Start with a blood test, this will give you and your physician a starting point for lifestyle changes and medications.
High cholesterol can be concerning. But in many cases, it’s a warning signal. High cholesterol doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll develop heart disease, but it should be taken seriously. And remember, there’s no time like the present to change your future.
If you have any questions about heart disease or preventive screenings, we’d love to visit with you. Reach out to Advanced Body Scan of Tulsa today at (918) 879-6161 to discuss your health goals with one of our specialists.
What If You Already Have Heart Disease?
If you’ve already developed heart disease, don’t let it stop you from doing the things you love. In this free guide, we teach you how to incorporate changes in diet, exercise and stress to manage (and prevent) future coronary events.
To access your free copy of the guide, click below!