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Good and Bad Cholesterol Explained

LDL and HDL Explained

When it comes to your heart health, one of the biggest concerns is cholesterol. For years, health experts and the food service industry have tried to come up with ways to encourage healthier eating habits, as well as public awareness of the potential risks of high cholesterol levels. However, what many people don't understand is that there is good cholesterol and bad cholesterol and what the difference is between the two.

Cholesterol itself is not a bad thing. It helps with development in babies and it's a crucial component for the development of membranes. In order to move around in the body, cholesterol combines with proteins. This combination is referred to as a lipoprotein. When lipoproteins contain more protein than cholesterol, they are referred to as high density lipoproteins, or HDL (good cholesterol.) When there is more cholesterol than protein, they are referred to as low density lipoproteins, or LDL (bad cholesterol.)

Good and Bad Cholesterol

The difference between the two is the speed at which they move, as well as how they affect the body. HDLs move quickly to the liver to be broken down, whereas LDLs move slowly and leave behind bits of cholesterol on the walls of arteries. As a result, the waxy cholesterol material LDLs leave behind can cause artery hardening, heart attacks and strokes. The problem for LDLs comes in when the pieces they leave behind break off of an artery wall. This leaves a wound, which clots in order to heal. These clots can then cause a blockage, or they can break away, leading to the heart or brain. HDLs can sweep through the blood stream and carry LDLs with them, but if your body already has an abundance of LDLs, you may not have enough HDLs to combat the problem.

Cholesterol levels in the body can also be affected by genetics, meaning what you eat is even more important. The liver produces its own cholesterol, both HDL and LDL, to be distributed to cells around the body. This cholesterol is meant to make up for lack of intake from food sources. However, some people's bodies continue producing cholesterol, even when they have an adequate intake from food.

Many choose to combat cholesterol problems by using prescription medications, as well as natural remedies. While prescription medications often do a good job of keeping cholesterol in check, they can often be expensive and contain harmful side effects. Natural cholesterol solutions are typically less expensive and contain fewer side effects, all while still balancing out your cholesterol levels. If you are concerned about a potential imbalance in your cholesterol levels, it is important to see your doctor to have your cholesterol levels tested to ensure good health.

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