Understanding the Types of Cholesterol

While most people talk about “cholesterol levels” there is in fact more than one type of cholesterol. In fact, there are several different body functions and several different substances that make up our understanding of “cholesterol.”

As with some fats, cholesterol cannot be dissolved in the blood. Instead, molecules called lipoproteins carry cholesterol to and from cells. Molecules are made from an outer layer of protein and an inner core of both cholesterol and triglycerides, which is another form of fat.

Lipoproteins equip the cholesterol to move around the body. The two main types of lipoproteins are:

1) High Density Lipoproteins (HDL)

• HDL transports cholesterol from cells back to the liver.

•HDL is either reused or converts to bile acids and disposed. This is known as “good” cholesterol. You want to ensure that your levels of this cholesterol remain high for optimum heart health, since having too low levels of HDL – even when other cholesterol levels are normal – may lead to heart problems. As you work to lower your “bad cholesterol” it is important to also take steps and to keep your HDL levels normal.

• HDL aids to ensure protection from the risk of heart attack and/or stroke. HDL consists of more protein than triglycerides or cholesterol, and aids to remove LDL from your artery walls.

2) Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL)

•LDL carries approximately 60_70% of cholesterol around the body and are known as “bad” cholesterol.

• Studies show conclusively that high cholesterol leads to much higher risk of heart attack and/or stroke. Other factors involved in this risk are age, gender, smoking, family history of heart disease, and diabetes mellitus.

Obviously, when we speak of having “cholesterol levels” we mean more than one number. To maintain optimum health, you will need to know your levels of both LDL and HDL and will need to work hard to keep both levels in healthy ranges.

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