What do you think of when you hear the words cholesterol? Something bad comes to mind a majority of the time. However, this isn't always the case.

What are LDL and HDL?

LDL: It is a lipoprotein, a combination of a lipid and protein, responsible for the transporting of cholesterol to cells. Most refer to this as the bad cholesterol, however it is needed in the body for this reason. Body cells need the fat of LDL. It can be bad in excess, because it will build on the walls of blood vessels.

HDL: It is responsible for removing excess cholesterol from the blood stream and transporting it to the liver.

How do LDL and HDL differ Structurally and Functionally?

The difference between LDL and HDL structurally is their compositions. LDL's weight consists of 50% cholesterol and only 25% protein. HDL on the other hand has a 20% composition of cholesterol and 50% of protein. When it comes to function, LDL transports the cholesterol to cells, whereas HDL carries it away from the heart to the liver.

Why do doctors monitor the concentrations of LDL and HDL in patient's blood?

Doctors monitor LDL and HDL concentrations because their levels in the blood help doctor to determine health status and if they are at risk for cardiovascular disease. The levels can show a doctor how the  body is processing unhealthy foods, and how healthy the patient has been eating.

How are concentrations of LDL and HDL associated with the risk for heart disease and associated disorders?

If the body has an excess of LDL, arteries that run to the heart can get clogged. It could eventually lead to plaque build up, directly causing atherosclerosis. If the blood can't smoothly be transported in and out of the heart, it won't work properly, resulting some form of heart disease.

It's important to have a little bit of LDL, so body cells can use them, however too much can clog arteries. On the flip side, if there isn't enough HDL isn't transporting the excess LDL away from the heart to the liver, the amount of LDL could increase.

What other molecules in a patient's blood are monitored along with LDL and HDL?

- Triglycerides                           -Blood Sugar Level                           -Total Cholesterol

What do the results of a cholesterol test mean? How do patients interpret each value?

Total Blood Cholesterol Level:

  • High risk: 240 mg/dL and above
  • Borderline high risk: 200-239 mg/dL
  • Desirable: Less than 200 mg/dL

LDL Levels:

  • High risk for heart disease: 190 mg/dL
  • Normal: Lower than 100 mg/ dL

HDL cholesterol:

  • High risk: Less than 40 mg/dL
  • Normal: 40 or more mg/ dL

Triglyceride levels:

  • Very high risk: 500 mg/dL and above
  • High risk: 200-499 mg/dL
  • Borderline high risk: 150-199 mg/dL
  • Normal: Less than 150 mg/dL

What can patients do to change the levels of LDL and HDL in their blood?

Patients can change their levels of HDL and LDL by simple lifestyle changes. One being eating healthier. Decreasing your intake of saturated fats and cholesterol can help higher HDL levels and lower LDL levels. Also, getting plenty of exercise can do the same.

How does intake of unsaturated, saturated, and trans fats affect cholesterol levels and overall health?

Eating a lot of saturated fats and trans fats can raise LDL levels in the blood, because they don't dissolve in water or bloods, so they stick to artery walls. However eating more unsaturated fat will better your health and decrease LDL levels.


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