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Monday, October 20, 2014

Good Cholesterol, Bad Cholesterol -- What's the Difference?

Yes, there is a difference between good cholesterol and bad cholesterol, and everyone has both. The key to maintaining good health is to increase the good cholesterol and decrease the bad cholesterol. Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is in all body cells. You body actually makes its own cholesterol in order for it to produce hormones, vitamin D and other substances that aid in digestion. But cholesterol is also in the foods we eat.

Good vs bad

Lipoproteins carry the cholesterol through the bloodstream. High-density lipoproteins, or HDL cholesterol, is the good cholesterol because it takes cholesterol to the liver where it is removed from the body. No cholesterol buildup, which is good. Low-density lipoproteins, or LDL, is called the bad cholesterol. But it's only bad when you build up too much LDL. A certain amount of LDL is healthy, but too much LDL leads to cholesterol building up in the arteries which can lead to heart disease.

How much of each should you have?

An overall cholesterol reading that is high does not necessarily mean that you have a cholesterol problem. If you have a very high level of good cholesterol in your bloodstream, it can raise the overall reading. That's a good thing. The opposite is NOT a good thing. Ideally, your total cholesterol should be below 200. However, if your total cholesterol is 202, but your good cholesterol level is 73, that makes your bad cholesterol 129 which is within the near ideal range.

Recommended levels of good cholesterol are 50 or above, and 120-129 for bad cholesterol. Your doctor may recommend even lower levels of bad cholesterol be maintained if you have a history of heart disease.

For more information on good vs. bad cholesterol, visit the National Institutues of Health at
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