What is the difference between "good" and "bad" cholesterol?

What is the difference between "good" and "bad" cholesterol?

There is often confusion over the difference between good and bad cholesterol. Essentially, "bad cholesterol" (LDL) forms plaque on the interior artery walls, thickening and stiffening them. Known as atherosclerosis, this condition can lead to blood clots and constriction of the arteries around the heart, which can cause heart attack and stroke and increase the risk for other cardiovascular diseases.

On the other hand, "good cholesterol" (HDL) helps to remove the bad cholesterol from your bloodstream. Experts believe that HDL helps transport LDL to the liver to be processed and removed from the body. Healthy HDL levels help to reduce your risk for the same diseases and conditions that LDL can cause.

So how can you lower your LDL and raise your HDL? It all starts with making healthy lifestyle changes. Here are a few helpful tips to help you control both your good and bad cholesterol levels.

Lose excess weight. If you are overweight, losing those extra pounds can impact your HDL in a positive way. In fact, losing just six pounds can increase your HDL by 1 mg/dL! Shedding that excess weight can also lower your LDL levels.

Get active. If you don't already exercise on a regular basis, it's time to get moving. It only takes 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity five times a week to start increasing your HDL. If you're in overall good health, your HDL may decrease as much as five percent after only two months of a consistent aerobic regimen. Activities that get your heart rate up include brisk walking, jogging, cycling and basketball.

You are what you eat. Along with regular exercise, eating a healthy, nutritionally balanced diet can improve your overall cholesterol levels. In general, 25 to 35 percent of your daily calories should come from fat. However, only seven percent of your daily calories should come from saturated fats, which can raise your LDL.

Opting for foods that contain healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) can boost your HDL. Be sure to cook with healthy oils like olive, walnut or peanut oil.

Healthy foods that can lower your LDL include oatmeal, oat bran and high-fiber foods. A variety of nuts, including almonds and walnuts, are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids. They can reduce cholesterol levels when eaten raw without any salty or sugary seasonings. Be sure to eat nuts in small quantities, since they are high in calories.  

Finally, the omega-3 fatty acids in fish like tuna, salmon and halibut can reduce blood pressure and the risk for blood clots.

Kick the habit. If you smoke, quit. Not only is smoking directly linked to lung cancer and other serious health conditions, but quitting smoking can also raise your HDL by as much as 10 percent over time.

Alcohol in moderation. Studies have shown that drinking in moderation—one or two drinks per day depending on age and sex—has been associated with higher HDL levels. Of course, alcohol abuse will result in negative health consequences, and if you choose to abstain from alcohol, there is no reason to start drinking.

For some people, taking the aforementioned steps may not be enough to significantly reduce cholesterol. If that is the case, your physician may prescribe a daily medication to help control your cholesterol levels. Medications containing niacin and fibrates work in the blood stream to increase your HDL cholesterol level, while those containing statins block the production of cholesterol in the liver and help to remove cholesterol from your blood.

Posted: 4/24/2015 by Goshen Health
Filed under: bad, cholesterol, good, health, heart

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