Understanding the Difference Between Bad and Good Cholesterol

You know getting your cholesterol checked is important, but you may wonder what all the numbers mean. At Nevada Family Care & Wellness Center, we use your cholesterol levels as a tool to help us assess your health and create a plan of action to either maintain your numbers or improve them. More specifically, we want your “good” cholesterol to be high and your “bad” cholesterol low.

Knowing what all the different numbers mean and why we want some numbers high and others low may help you better understand why this blood marker is so important for your health.

Understanding cholesterol

Cholesterol has kind of a bad rap, so you might be surprised to learn that it’s essential for good health. The waxy fat is found in every cell in your body and is used to make vitamin D, hormones, and bile, which is a substance your body needs to digest fat. Your liver can manufacture all the cholesterol your body needs.

However, you also get cholesterol from the food you eat, such as eggs, cheese, milk, and red meat. It’s not so much the cholesterol in these foods that are concerning, but the saturated fat. This type of fat, along with trans fat found in fried foods and baked goods, may cause your liver to make more cholesterol than you need, which isn’t good for your health.

Why you need to know your numbers

Cholesterol travels in your blood, which is why we check your blood cholesterol levels to determine your numbers. Too much cholesterol in your blood leads to the buildup of plaque along your artery walls, which is known as atherosclerosis. The plaques narrow the artery passageways and increase your risk of heart disease. High blood cholesterol also increases your risk of developing blood clots and having a heart attack or stroke.

Bad vs. good cholesterol

When we check your cholesterol numbers, we look at your total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) numbers.

LDL is the cholesterol that travels through your bloodstream and sticks to your artery walls causing the plaque buildup. A high level of LDL in your blood is associated with an increased risk of heart disease.

When HDL cholesterol travels through your blood, it collects LDL and other substances from your blood, reducing the risk of plaque buildup. The HDL then takes the LDL to your liver, where it’s processed and eliminated from your body to help lower your cholesterol. When your HDL levels are high, your risk of heart disease decreases.

In addition to total cholesterol, LDL, and HDL, you may also notice very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) numbers on your blood test. VLDL isn’t directly measured on standard cholesterol tests, so the number is just an estimate. VLDL carries triglycerides, and like LDL, it is considered a bad cholesterol because it contributes to plaque buildup.

For good health, we recommend adults aim for:

Tips to change your numbers

The good news about cholesterol is that you can change your numbers. You can lower your total cholesterol and LDL numbers and improve HDL by making healthy food choices, being more active, and getting to and maintaining a healthy weight.

Adding specific foods to your diet may also help improve your numbers, such as:

The soluble fiber in the grains, fruits, and veggies grabs cholesterol in your gut and takes it out of your body. The healthy fats in salmon, soy, and nuts help reduce production of LDL.

If you’re still having a tough time improving your cholesterol after making lifestyle changes, we may recommend medications -- that lower your bad cholesterol and raise your good cholesterol -- to help improve your health and lessen your risk of heart disease.

If you’d like to know more about your cholesterol numbers and how we can help, call our office or book an appointment online.

You Might Also Enjoy...

Signs of Low Testosterone You May Not Be Aware Of

Low libido and erectile dysfunction are classic signs of low testosterone, the male hormone. But sexual function isn’t the only thing impacted by low testosterone. From hair loss to weight gain, learn more about the other signs of low testosterone.

5 Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally

About half of adults in the United States have high blood pressure. Taking blood pressure medicine can help, but these medications often cause some unpleasant side effects. These five tips can help you lower your blood pressure naturally.

Struggling With ED? We Can Help

A lot of men over the age of 40 struggle with ED — roughly 50% to be exact. Thankfully, treating ED isn’t difficult once you find out what’s causing it.

Grains Are Not Your Body’s Ally

You might think that eating whole grains is a healthy choice, but in most cases, those grains aren't as “whole” as you think. Grains aren’t your body’s ally. Read on to learn what happens to grains in your body and why you should stop eating them.