Ever heard the terms “good cholesterol” and “bad cholesterol”? What’s the difference between the two? Wasn’t all cholesterol supposed to be bad for us?
Our body needs a certain amount of cholesterol to facilitate the production of hormones, digestive juices and vitamin D, to process fat from our foods. It is transported to body cells via two lipoproteins: high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL).
When cholesterol levels go higher than normal, fat can begin depositing in blood vessels, leading to atherosclerosis – a condition which can increase the risk for heart attack, artery disease and stroke.
LDL and HDL cholesterol
LDL, also called bad cholesterol, raises the risk of heart disease and stroke by making atherosclerosis worse. Its levels in the body increase with a high-fat diet, excess alcohol consumption, obesity, liver diseases, diabetes, or genetic reasons.
HDL, also called good cholesterol, helps carry cholesterol to the liver where it gets flushed from the body.
In short, the higher your LDL levels, the higher the chances of deadly health risks. A simple blood test can determine the amount of both lipoproteins. If you are diagnosed with high LDL, your doctor may recommend a low-fat diet, weight control, regular physical activity, and certain medicines like statins.
To bring down LDL cholesterol, you need to follow a heart-healthy diet, which includes:
- Whole grains
- Fresh fruits
- Leafy vegetables
- Black tea
If your doctor observes that diet, exercise and lifestyle modifications alone aren’t sufficient to lower LDL, then he/she may prescribe the right medication for you. This medication may contain statins, fibric acid agents or niacin.