In order to understand the differences between LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol, it is important to understand what cholesterol is. Cholesterol, a lipid or fat, circulates in the bloodstream. Human beings consume cholesterol in foods. In addition, your liver can manufacture cholesterol. Your liver is also responsible for removing cholesterol in the form of chylomicron, a combination of cholesterol and protein, from your blood.
What is LDL cholesterol?
LDL cholesterol, the "bad" cholesterol, helps cholesterol to deposit on the walls of arteries. This cholesterol can become hard and thick and can lead to atherosclerosis, or thickening and hardening artery walls. LDL cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein, can also accumulate in arteries leading to the brain.
What is HDL cholesterol?
HDL cholesterol, or high-density lipoprotein, is the "good" cholesterol. HDL cholesterol helps remove the cholesterol plaque on arterial walls and removes cholesterol from the body through the liver. Having a high ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol is a good thing.
LDL and HDL cholesterol
Cholesterol is measured as a ratio of milligrams, or mg, of cholesterol to deciliters, or dl, of blood. According to the Mayo Clinic, total cholesterol ratios:
HDL cholesterol ratios:
Levels of LDL cholesterol:
In addition, the Mayo Clinic suggests that you maintain an LDL level below 100 mg/dl if you are at risk of getting heart disease and below 70 mg/dl if you have a very high risk of developing heart disease.
It is important to have your cholesterol levels checked on a periodic basis per your physician's instructions. Should test results indicate that you have too much cholesterol in your blood, your physician may make several lifestyle-change suggestions. These suggestions might include:
There is an active debate on the benefits of alcohol in reducing cholesterol levels. Some studies show that drinking a moderate amount of alcohol may increase your HDL cholesterol levels slightly and have other health benefits as well. Some experts feel that risks outweigh the benefits.
Your physician may also prescribe medication to treat your cholesterol levels.
Having high cholesterol has been recognized as a risk factor for heart disease for many years. When the link between high cholesterol and cardiac disease was first noted it was assumed that by lowering our dietary intake of cholesterol rich foods then we would lower our total cholesterol.
Currently, there are two methods to lower your cholesterol, diet and/or medication. Medications work well in lowering your cholesterol number, but you might be concerned about long term side effects of taking the medication.