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ARTICLE Cholesterol


cholesterol chart

What's the difference between HDL and LDL?

LDL (low density lipoprotein) = "bad" cholesterol
LDL (bad) cholesterol tends to form fatty deposits that cling to the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the heart and brain. The resulting clogging can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

HDL (high density lipoprotein) = "good" cholesterol
HDL (good) cholesterol removes excess cholesterol from the bloodstream, thus reducing the risk for coronary heart disease and stroke.

What are triglycerides?

Triglycerides are the chemical form in which most fat exists in food as well as in the body. They're also present in blood plasma and, in association with cholesterol, form the plasma lipids.

Triglycerides in plasma are derived from fats eaten in foods or made in the body from other energy sources like carbohydrates. Calories ingested in a meal and not used immediately by tissues are converted to triglycerides and transported to fat cells to be stored. Hormones regulate the release of triglycerides from fat tissue so they meet the body's needs for energy between meals.

Source: American Heart Association, 2008.

Lower Your Cholesterol Levels

Along with your physician's orders to eat a heart-healthy diet, be physically active and lose weight, there are things everyone can do to help lower their cholesterol levels and their health risks.

  • Change your eating habits. Choose foods high in fiber and starch, low in cholesterol and total fat. For example, eat air-popped popcorn, not popcorn made with coconut oil.
  • Be more physically active. Shoot for brisk physical activity 45 minutes a day.
  • Lose weight if you're overweight. Losing even a few pounds can help lower your cholesterol. Take small steps and don't give up.

True or false: You could not live without cholesterol.

True. Cholesterol is a fatty substance that our bodies need to function. In fact, it is essential for life. You need cholesterol to form cell membranes, many hormones and bile acids (which digest fat), to name just a few. But too much cholesterol can hurt you.

When there's too much cholesterol in your blood, it can build up on the inside walls of your arteries and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. High blood cholesterol has no symptoms. That's why it's important to find out what your cholesterol levels are, so that you can lower and control them if you need to.