Cholesterol: is it good or bad?

Cholesterol is an important part of your diet, although too much can be a bad thing, it helps your body function properly including helping with digestion, learning, and memory!

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LDL and HDL: what are they?

LDL (low density lipoprotein) and HDL (high density lipoprotein) are both proteins that carry cholesterol around the body. They do this because cholesterol can't dissolve in blood, so something else must bring it to where it needs to go.

The main difference between LDL and HDL is that LDL transports proteins from the liver to tissues of the body, and HDL transports cholesterol from body tissue to the liver.

Risk of Heart Disease: how do LDL and HDL levels affect this?

High levels of LDL (190 mg/dl and higher) will increase your risk of heart disease, and low levels of HDL (less than 40mg/dl) will also increase the risk of heart disease.

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How can I find out what my levels are?

What other molecules are monitored in my blood?

Two other molecules considered when looking into risk of heart disease are cholesterol and triglycerides. A cholesterol level of 240mg/dl or higher and a triglyceride level of 200mg/dl or higher will both increase risk of heart disease.

A cholesterol test will allow a doctor to look at cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglyceride levels in a person's blood. Ideal levels for each of these would be as follows: cholesterol: less than 200mg/dl, LDL: less than 100mg/dl, HDL: 40mg/dl or more (60mg/dl is the average), and triglyceride: less than 150mg/dl.

What can I do to change my LDL and HDL levels?

Maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise is the best way to maintain healthy LDL and HDL levels. Cholesterol intake should be limited to about 200-300mg per day and intake of calories derived from fat should be reduced. As for exercise, at least 25 minutes of aerobic exercise five times a week is suggested.

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Fats: How does intake of this affect cholesterol levels and overall health?

There are three main types of fats, unsaturated, saturated, and trans. Unsaturated fats are considered "good fats" because they improve blood cholesterol levels, ease inflammation, and stabilize heart rhythms. Saturated fats aren't necessarily bad, although eating too much of them is bad for your heart, but replacing them with "good fats" will decrease your risk of heart disease. Trans fats in general are just not good for either cholesterol levels or your health because they raise LDL levels and lower HDL levels increasing risk of heart disease.

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