If you are losing weight or want to lose weight you may probably have heard about the word cholesterol. Cholesterol is a lipid (fat-like molecules circulating your bloodstream) which is a waxy, fat-like substance that your liver produces in your body. It forms the cell membranes, some hormones and vitamin D.
You might have heard that it is harmful to your body but it is not completely harmful if it is consumed in a favourable amount. There are generally two types of cholesterol: Good and Bad. So, what is good cholesterol? And what is bad cholesterol? Let us find out about these two cholesterols in depth.
How Cholesterol levels are measured?
Cholesterol levels are measured by screening tests which are performed by a blood test known as a lipid profile. It includes total cholesterol, LDL (Low-Density lipoprotein cholesterol), HDL (High-Density lipoprotein cholesterol) and Triglycerides.
Results of these tests come in cholesterol numbers. The numbers only aren’t a measure of your risk of heart disease or to examine what to do to reduce that risk. It is just a smaller portion of an equation which includes your smoking habits, your age, your blood pressure and your overall physical health. Your doctor will determine your risk of any heart diseases which will be based on this data.
Types of cholesterols
We have always been hearing that cholesterol is bad. Well, every coin has two sides and cholesterol isn’t an exception, so, they are divided into two:
- LDL ( Low-Density Lipoproteins)
- HDL (High-Density Lipoproteins).
So, what is the difference between good vs bad cholesterol? Understanding good cholesterol vs bad cholesterol helps you stay away from any risk of heart attacks and strokes. Let us understand each one of them in-depth.
LDL: The Bad Cholesterol
LDL which is short for low-density lipoproteins is a category of cholesterol. If a person has a high level of LDL in their blood, it means that they have an excess of LDL in their blood. If the level of LDL is high it may form plaque. Plaque forms in your arteries, this situation is known as atherosclerosis.
It causes your arteries to become thin and hard which can block and slow down your heart. This means that your blood might not be able to transport the oxygen which may cause a heart attack.
How is LDL level is checked?
A blood test is given to check the cholesterol levels. Children should have the test after every 5 years starting from 9-10 years of age. People who are in the age range from 20-45 years, should get their test done every five years. After 45 years of age, people should get their test done after every 1-2 years. Getting your LDL levels checked is very important to determine if you have a risk of any heart disease.
What is the ideal LDL level?
The lower the LDL count, the better it is to prevent any heart disease and other health issues. The optimal level of LDL is less than 100mg/dL whereas the highest level is 160-190mg/dL.
Reasons your LDL level might be high
Your cholesterol levels get high when your lifestyle is not promising. The reasons your LDL level is high are:
- Age and gender: As you get older, your cholesterol level will get high. Before menopause, women tend to have fewer cholesterol levels than men but after menopause, their cholesterol levels rise.
- Lack of physical activity: Lack of physical activity leads to weight gain which can raise your cholesterol levels.
- Bad eating habits: Eating food high in saturated fat and oil leads to a higher level of LDL.
- Smoking habits: People who smoke cigarettes tend to have higher cholesterol levels.
- Weight: Being overweight raises your chances of having a higher level of LDL.
- Family background: If high levels of LDL runs through your family, you may have a little chance of having the same.
- Health issues: Some chronic diseases like kidney disease, diabetes and HIV/AIDS can cause higher LDL levels.
HDL: The Good Cholesterol
HDL which is short for high-density lipoprotein is a microscopic blob which consists of a lipoprotein surrounding cholesterol particles, that is why it is called high density. Cholesterol is an essential fat and provides stability in every cell of your body.
So, what benefits does HDL gives?
HDL cholesterol removes any high level of LDL or the ‘bad’ cholesterol in the body and also recycles the LDL cholesterol by transferring it into the liver where it is reprocessed. HDL is also beneficial when it comes to protecting the inner walls of the blood vessels. If the inner walls of blood vessels are damaged, it can cause heart attack and strokes. HDL keeps the walls of blood cells clean and healthy.
What is the ideal level of HDL?
Getting a cholesterol test done determines the level of HDL in the blood. So, what is the favourable level of HDL? If the HDL cholesterol levels are greater than 60mg/dL, then the HDL level is good. If it is less than 40mg/dL, then it is not so good. People with high levels of HDL are at low risk of developing any heart disease and vice versa.
What to do if your HDL level is low?
Changing your lifestyle and quitting on your bad habits like smoking and eating food which is responsible for increasing your ‘bad’ cholesterol levels can help boost your HDL levels. Keeping your weight balanced according to your age, height and health are important for maintaining your HDL levels.
Your lifestyle determines your health
Keeping your cholesterol levels in control is making changes in your lifestyle. In terms of physical activity, regular exercises maintain your weight meaning lower LDL levels and higher HDL levels.
In terms of diet, avoiding trans fat, sugary and fried food can increase your HDL levels meaning less risk of developing any heart disease. Quitting smoking is very important if you want to maintain a healthy cholesterol level. Also, drinking alcohol is also a factor in increased bad cholesterol in the body. Changing these lifestyles will help you achieve overall good health.