The quick and easy answer to what the difference is between good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol is that bad cholesterol is largely controlled by diet while good cholesterol is largely controlled by exercise. LDL and HDL, or low-density lipoprotein and high-density lipoprotein, are actually the fat/protein combinations that carry cholesterol around the body. According to the American Heart Association, “cholesterol can’t dissolve in the blood.” Thus, the lipoproteins are necessary to get cholesterol out of the blood.
More specifically, LDL cholesterol can sit in the blood and clog up passageways, leading to issues like atherosclerosis, which can eventually create such blockages that heart attacks and heart disease are caused by. Poor diet, obesity, genetics, and unhealthy habits like smoking cigarettes can all contribute to high LDL levels.
HDL cholesterol, on the other hand, actually keeps LDL cholesterol in control by moving it out of the blood vessels. An appropriate amount of HDL is good for the heart and the rest of the cardiovascular system, while low levels of HDL can actually make you more likely to experience complications. If you’re concerned about your cholesterol, talk to your doctor about getting a blood test to see where your LDL and HDL levels fall.