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Differences Between Good and Bad Cholesterol

Signs of high blood pressure

For years, doctors have told their patients to keep their “bad cholesterol” low and their “good cholesterol” high. But what are the differences between good and bad cholesterol, and why is each important? In this blog, the friendly health specialists at Internal Medicine & Pediatric Clinic in New Albany, Mississippi, explain the differences.

First, what is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that your body produces naturally. Your body needs it to produce hormones, such as testosterone and estrogen, and it allows you to make vitamin D from sunlight.

Cholesterol moves through your blood on proteins called lipoproteins. There are two types of lipoproteins that carry cholesterol throughout your body:

  • Low-density lipoproteins (LDL), or the “bad” cholesterol
  • High-density lipoproteins (HDL), or the “good” cholesterol

What is bad cholesterol (LDL)?

It’s important to note that LDL cholesterol isn’t inherently bad. LDL cholesterol plays a vital role in your health by transporting fat to your cells to give them energy.

However, a variety of factors can cause LDL molecules to oxidize, which can make them stick to the walls of your arteries. When enough of these oxidized LDL molecules accumulate in your arteries, your arteries will narrow. Narrowing arteries can lead to heart disease and stroke.

Some risk factors that may increase the oxidation of LDL molecules include:

  • A diet that’s high in saturated fats and trans fats
  • Being overweight
  • Smoking
  • Poorly controlled diabetes
  • Exposure to pollutants
  • Stress
  • Genetics

The best way to keep your LDL cholesterol low is to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle and to eat foods high in antioxidants.

What is good cholesterol (HDL)?

HDL cholesterol absorbs other cholesterol types and takes them back to your liver, where they’re broken down and removed from your body.

You can improve your HDL levels with:

  • Aerobic exercise
  • Losing weight
  • Reducing your consumption of simple carbohydrates
  • Removing trans fats and saturated fats from your diet
  • Increasing your consumption of omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium

Unfortunately, you can’t figure out your cholesterol by looking in the mirror or having your blood pressure checked at a grocery store. A doctor will need to order a cholesterol test. However, looking at your cholesterol levels won’t tell the whole story about your health.

At Internal Medicine & Pediatric Clinic, you can speak with an experienced doctor who can walk you through the results of your test. If your bad cholesterol is high or if your good cholesterol is low, your doctor can help you make the lifestyle changes needed to achieve better health. And if that isn’t enough, your doctor can also prescribe medication.


To learn more about maintaining healthy levels of cholesterol, book an appointment online or over the phone with Internal Medicine & Pediatric Clinic today.

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