Good and Bad Cholesterol: What’s the Difference?

What and how you eat plays a big role in your risk for heart disease and a variety of other serious cardiovascular conditions. This is especially true if the foods you eat are high in cholesterol.

About 102 million people in the United States have high cholesterol. At HeartCare Associates of Connecticut, LLC, our team specializes in helping patients reduce their risk for heart disease and other complications of high cholesterol.

In order to help you better understand the impact that cholesterol has on your health, we’re breaking down the differences between good and bad cholesterol and what you can do to improve your heart health.

What is cholesterol and where does it come from?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance in your bloodstream that is responsible for vital health functions, including the production of healthy new cells and the creation of new hormones.

It’s your liver that produces this cholesterol, generally making whatever cholesterol is necessary to support good health. But you also get cholesterol from foods in your diet. Because foods provide extra cholesterol, it can cause an excess that has negative health consequences.

Too much cholesterol can lead to an accumulation of fatty deposits in your blood. These deposits can restrict blood flow in your blood vessels, and over time, can harden into a plaque. This plaque narrows your vessels, and without treatment, can lead to a complete blockage that doesn’t allow blood to flow to the rest of your body.

Cholesterol – the good and the bad

You have two types of cholesterol – good and bad. To travel through your bloodstream, your natural cholesterol and the cholesterol you get from your diet bind to proteins to form a lipoprotein. There are different types of lipoproteins in your blood, including:

High-density lipoprotein (HDL)

HDL cholesterol is the good cholesterol, responsible for picking up excess cholesterol in your blood and carrying it back to your liver, which filters the excess from your body as waste.

Having high levels of HDL cholesterol can actually lower your risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL)

LDL cholesterol is known as the bad cholesterol. When you have high levels of LDL, it can lead to blood vessel blockages that cause heart attacks and strokes.

While you can have high levels of LDL in your blood at any time, it’s unlikely you’ll have any noticeable symptoms until something serious, like a heart attack, occurs. For this reason, it’s important to keep a close eye on your cholesterol levels.

When to get your cholesterol checked

Routine cholesterol checks should happen at least once a year, during your annual physical. You might need more routine cholesterol testing if you have risk factors for high cholesterol and its side effects, such as:

You also might need more frequent cholesterol testing as you get older, as age-related changes in your body can lead to high cholesterol. These changes might lead to loss of some liver function that makes it difficult to remove bad cholesterol efficiently.

If your test reveals high cholesterol, our team at HeartCare Associates of Connecticut, LLC, can work with you on a treatment plan to bring it under control. Treatment might require lifestyle changes, dietary changes, and cholesterol-lowering medications.

When you need help managing high cholesterol, call the HeartCare Associates of Connecticut, LLC, office nearest you today.

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