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What are the Differences Between Good & Bad Cholesterol?

You may have heard that high cholesterol can lead to health problems, but did you know that there’s such a thing as good cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance made by the liver that can be found in all the cells of your body. Cholesterol is necessary for making tissues, cell walls, vitamin D, bile acid and hormones — and is important for good health. However, our livers aren’t the only source of cholesterol. It can be found in foods with high saturated fats, such as dairy, so it’s important to be knowledgeable of your cholesterol levels in order to lead a healthy lifestyle. Here’s what you should know.

HDL Cholesterol

High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is what’s known as the “good” cholesterol. HDL helps to remove cholesterol from your body by carrying it to your liver — which removes cholesterol from your bloodstream before it builds up in your arteries.

LDL Cholesterol

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is what’s known as the “bad” cholesterol. Whereas HDL transports cholesterol to your liver to prevent buildup in your arteries, LDL brings cholesterol directly to your arteries. This can lead to plaque buildup in your blood vessels that can potentially lead to chest pain, heart attacks, or stroke.


The third component of cholesterol is what’s known as triglycerides. Triglycerides are stored in the blood as fat and act as unused calories, so eating more calories than you burn can increase risk for heart attacks by causing a buildup of triglycerides in your bloodstream.

Know Your Numbers

Knowing your cholesterol counts is an important component of living a healthy lifestyle. Approximately one-third of Americans are affected by high cholesterol, which can lead to an increased risk of heart attacks or stroke. It’s imperative that you see your primary care provider annually to closely monitor your cholesterol levels. Below are the cholesterol counts that are considered healthy.

  • Total Cholesterol < 200

  • LDL Cholesterol < 100

  • HDL Cholesterol > 60

There are positive, healthy lifestyle choices you can adopt to help raise your good cholesterol levels and lower your bad cholesterol levels. The two biggest components of a healthy lifestyle are diet and exercise.

  • Diet - Make sure your diet consists of heart-healthy foods. This means increasing your fiber consumption, focusing on good fats and limiting your red meat consumption. You should remove trans fats from your diet as well.

  • Exercise - A sedentary lifestyle is the enemy of a healthy heart. You should aim to get at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week, or 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week.

  • Medication - If diet and exercise does not help to bring your cholesterol levels into a healthy range, your primary care practitioner may find that medication is needed to help get your cholesterol levels where they should be. Your cholesterol levels may need to be checked every 3 months until on a stable medication dose.

If you’re unaware of your current cholesterol levels and would like them checked, or believe you may be in danger of high cholesterol, schedule an appointment with Cypress Health + Wellness today! We can measure your good cholesterol and bad cholesterol levels, while helping you adopt healthier lifestyle habits so you can achieve the best balance of both.

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