LDL, or low-density lipid, cholesterol is often referred to as the “bad” cholesterol. However, this doesn’t mean you won’t have any LDL cholesterol in your system at all—but you do want to keep it at a healthy level. HDL, the “good,” high-density lipid cholesterol, is responsible for clearing away LDL cholesterol. It essentially pulls it out of the blood and sends it off to the liver to be broken down and gotten rid of.
It’s important for every adult to get periodic blood tests so you know where you stand, but this is especially important if you have a family history of cholesterol issues, are overweight, or are dealing with other cardiovascular issues. According to the National Institute of Health, less than 100 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter) is the best level of LDL to have. Up to 129 mg/dL is still pretty good. Once levels reach above 130 mg/dL, it’s considered unhealthy. 160 mg/dL is high, and once LDL reaches 190 mg/dL, levels are very high. While exercise helps keep appropriate levels of HDL, diet is largely responsible for the amount of LDL in the blood. However, diet, exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight can all the cholesterol ratios of lipoproteins.
Excessive amounts of LDL cholesterol can throw off a healthy cholesterol ratio balance, leading to atherosclerosis. This can create plaque, which makes hard spots in the arteries that clog up blood flow and lead to clots. In turn, this can cause heart attacks and strokes. While doctors may have looked at straightforward cholesterol levels to predict heart disease in the past, now calculating the cholesterol ratio of HDL to non-HDL counts is considered more beneficial. A desirable cholesterol ratio to prevent future heart disease is 3.5:1 (total to HDL) for men and 4.5:1 for women.
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