Which is good cholesterol? LDL or HDL?

Hint: One will make your family H-appy


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What is high cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fat-like material that provides structure for a body’s cells. A person’s liver makes most of the cholesterol a body needs, but a person can also get some from foods. Too much can cause a sticky substance (plaque) to build up in blood vessels. This plaque can block blood vessels and cause heart attacks and strokes.

But I feel okay.

Most people with high cholesterol feel healthy and don’t have symptoms. The only way to levels are high is to have cholesterol levels checked.

Cholesterol is checked with a blood test. The test works best if you don’t eat or drink anything for at least 8 hours before the test.

This chart shows the damage cholesterol can inflict on an artery.

What do your numbers mean?

Your total cholesterol is made up of two types of cholesterol:

  • LDL (low-density lipoproteins)
  • HDL (high-density lipoproteins).

High levels of LDL increase a person’s chances of heart disease. It is the “bad cholesterol.” High levels of HDL decrease a person’s chances of heart disease. It is the “good cholesterol.”

What can you do?

Follow a healthy eating plan.

  • Read food labels and limit foods high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol.
  • Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy foods and whole grains.
  • Ask to see a registered dietitian if you need help with a plan.

Be physically active.

  • “Physical activity” includes any activity that raises a person’s heart rate, such as brisk walking, working in the house or yard, or playing sports.
  • Do activity for 10 minutes or more at a time. Aim for at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of activity each week.

Achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

If a person is overweight, ask a provider for help with an eating and physical activity plan to lose weight

A provider may prescribe medicine to help lower cholesterol. People should take the medicine every day, or as directed by a provider. If cholesterol numbers get lower, it’s because the medicine is working. Don’t stop it or take a lower dose unless a provider says so.

Here are the facts.

For more information, contact a local VA Medical Center or Health Clinic.

Author

Hans Petersen

Hans Petersen is senior writer-editor for Digital Media, VHA Office of Communications. An Air Force Veteran, Hans also served two years in the Peace Corps and worked for 20 years in broadcasting before joining VA.

Comments

  1. James Fortney    

    Thanks for these revelations. In 96 I was diagnosed with high cholesterol and put on statins. When asked how long was told the rest of my life. Wrong answer but I didn’t want to die. 2012 was diagnosed with neuropathy, no determined cause. Gabapentin, the rest of my life. 2019 met with a chiropractor that explained the connection between neuropathy, ATP, and statins in a Johns Hopkins study. People still can’t understand why I don’t worship at the alter of white coats.
    Now we have this covid debacle….. there is a reason it is referred to as the medical and pharmaceutical “industry “ and not service.
    Sorry for being so long. I tried to be brief.

  2. Julio Hernandez    

    I decided to view this report for kicks. I am a retired Viet Vet, but I’m also a degreed chemist. I am obese by their standards, I am pre-diabetic and have high blood pressure and AFib. You ask, what am I doing on here? well, I have had high cholesterol most of my life and my arteries are what you would expect from a 74 year old male, it hasn’t killed me yet. What could of killed me was the statin drugs that my cardiologist swears by. The side effects of statins are horrific, this piece mentions that the liver manufactures most of the cholesterol needed and only smaill amount from food, and if the body doesn’t need anymore it won’t produce nor absorb it. Horray, bring back the incredible eatable egg. BTW. as a side bar since I’m old enough to remember and I keep all my blood work records, the FDA has been lowering the acceptable number for cholesterol for years. Give a shout out from big Pharma add more billions to the sale of statins, Ok back to the piece, first of all cholesterol does not cause plac in arteries by themselves, there has to be other conditions in the blood such as an over abundance of triglycerides and other metabolic factors. Aha, this brings me to another critical oversight of the piece, the cholesterol number in your blood work report is not a measured number, but a formula. The formula comprises of HDL and Triglycerides. If you happen to have very low numbers of Triglycerides and high HCL the formula is skewed and you end up with high cholesterol. How about that, the author neglected to mention Triglycerides. I only worry about high Triglycerides because it means you’re eating too much, especially carbs. The liver takes the excess witch it had converted to glucose and converts in to Triglycerides for storage in your fat cells. Since the protein (cholesterol) which transports the fat known as Triglycerides throughout your blood system and the combination can cause a sticky substance that can attach to walls in arteries. As another side note the body does not make much distinction from fats which can be in any form such as saturated, mono saturated or poly saturated. When you consume Omega 3 or Omega 6 or fat from a nice roast pork the body treats them same way {caveat, there are many other chemicals reactions going on in the cell) I know that this has been a long winded response, but it’s one of my hobbies, fighting with dietitians and cardiologists who are clueless about the biochemistry of the body.Just wait another 5 years and they’ll come up with new guidelines.

  3. J. Mcneil    

    You’ll always provide helpful health info. Very educational and informative. Thanks.

    1. Robert Wieland    

      God bless you Julio on your outstanding piece. I’m 79, just had “the test” Tuesday and it’s the usual. A couple of additions if I may. First of all cholesterol is necessary for healthy brain function! Of course I’m not recommending you folks get high cholesterol.I often wonder if the epidemics of Alzheimer’s and Dementia are connected to the cholesterol drain.
      Doctor’s have been slow to recommend Q-10 supplements which are important in replacing the natural ones lost when taking this medicine and are necessary for healthy heart function.
      My 54 year old son had a heart attack and was prescribed a statin which caused unbearable muscle pain. He is a stong guy and has always tolerated pain but took himself off due to the excess pain.
      When it comes to heart health there are many factors involved. Proper diet, exercise, mental attitude, weight, drug addiction, smoking, sleep, existing ailments, BP, and so forth.
      Last year I told my physician that we northern Europeans had to run around in the cold woods and that body fat was needed to survive and that’s my legacy. Remember Bertolli’s law from high school? The narrower the opening the higher the pressure? 20 years ago I asked my physician if my arteries are getting clogged how come my BP is so good? No answer.
      Disclaimer-This is MY story and not offering any medical advice.

      1. Julio Hernandez    

        Thank you for your kind words Robert. It’s true what you said about the effects on the brain when excessively lowering cholesterol. I did not go into the chemistry of CoQ10 because I was focused on one project. However as you said low CoQ10 levels in the cells is a problem, this is also one of my pet peeves with the medical profession (or should I say the FDA and big Pharma, let’s make more money) When I was in my 40’s a doctor prescribed a statin to lower my cholesterol, over the years I had numerous side effects such as muscular pains and loss of memory, I decided that there was a problem here and I delved further into it. Silly me, I was now working as a chemical engineer and not a lab rat. Anyways, what struck me the most is how much damage statins make to the formation of ATP the gasoline that the mitochondria in the cells needs to move the wheels (i’m trying not to get too technical) Statin drugs interfere with the biosynthesis of cholesterol which is what it is intended to do, but CoQ10 also shares this same intermediate pathway. So in plain words NO Cholesterol, NO CoQ10, NO ATP thereby starving the mitochondria in the cells and producing very little energy for growth and daily activity. You heard of brain fog, well this is how you get it. Most of this lipid Ubiquinone (CoQ10) is found in the highest concentrations in the heart, liver and kidneys, so imagine how much more free radicals are running around in these organs because of low CoQ10 levels.
        So please NO MORE STATINS and far as high cholesterol is concerned: Damn the Torpedoes.

  4. William Michael Stanton    

    So you have media broadcaster giving out very bad and outdated info on lipids! There is no such thing as bad cholesterol. It’s all good as each serves a purpose.

  5. Allen    

    Thank You. This is such good information. I have high cholesterol high blood pressure kidney problems prostate glaucoma and more. I exercise each day and take my medicine as directed. I am trying to eat better. God Bless You

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