What is Cholesterol and Why is it Good and Bad?

I have written a bit about fats and cholesterol in a post several weeks ago. HDL (the good kind) means High-density lipoproteins and LDL (the bad kind) means Low-density lipoproteins. I explained that I remember that HDL is the good kind by remembering “H” is for happy, while the LDL is the bad kind by remember “L” is for lousy. That’s my silly little trick.

Today, I came across some information on the National Institutes of Health’s website that made things even easier to understand. “Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance present in cell walls or membranes everywhere in the body, including the heart. Our bodies need some excess cholesterol, but excess cholesterol deposited in our blood can raise our risk of Heart Disease or Stroke. Excess cholesterol can build up in our arteries, including the coronary arteries, where it contributes to narrowing and blockage.”

Okay, we know that the LDL cholesterol is bad for us and can kill us or leave us paralyzed from a stroke if it builds up and sticks to the artery walls and clogs them. But how does the HDL, good cholesterol work, and why is it good for us? The HDL keeps the LDL “bad kind” from sticking to the sides of the arteries. It actually carries cholesterol in the blood from other parts of the body to the liver, which removes it. So we definitely need the good kind.

Should your health care professional just give you one number for your cholesterol, make sure you have them tell you the exact numbers for your LDL and HDL and make sure you know if you need to improve one or the other.

How do we increase our “good” kind and lower our “bad” kind? Now, we are back to lifestyle. Good healthy food and plenty of exercise. If your problem is really major, you may need medication until you can get control of it through diet and exercise. But just depending on medication while continuing a lousy diet and sedentary lifestyle is a very poor way to live. A healthy lifestyle should always be the goal.

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