Everything you need to know about LDL and HDL cholesterol

Did you know that LDL or bad cholesterol is also essential for your body? They help to make the cell walls stronger so that any foreign particle doesn't enter into it.

We hear a lot about cholesterol and how it affects our heart health. But cholesterol is not all that bad there is good cholesterol or HDL cholesterol that is good for your health. The culprit is the bad or LDL cholesterol. While we hear a lot about them but there is very less knowledge dispensed regarding their functions and characteristics apart from the fact that they are categorised as good and bad. So we got talking to Dr Samir Kubba, Principal Consultant, Max Institute of Cardiac Sciences, Max Hospital to know more about them.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a compound that is needed by every cell of the body for proper functioning and growth. About one-third of the total cholesterol that we need comes from our dietary sources and two-thirds of it is manufactured by the body in the liver. High levels of LDL or bad cholesterol increase cardiovascular risk whereas that of HDL cholesterol acts as a protective cover for the heart.

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What is LDL cholesterol?

As we all know LDL cholesterol is the bad cholesterol which clogs the arteries and increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. It is essential to keep the levels of LDL cholesterol to a minimum which is 100 mg/dL. Increases in LDL levels increase one s risk of heart diseases. For instance, people who have an LDL level between 100-159 mg/dL have a 30 to 40 per cent higher risk of cardiovascular disease death, those with 160 mg/dL has a 70 to 90 per cent risk as compared to those who have it under 100 mg/dL. Both HDL and LDL are types of lipoproteins and LDL is the largest and least dense lipoprotein needed to transport cholesterol molecules into the cells. They give extra support to the cells, making the cell walls rigid and preventing small molecules to pass through the cell membrane. When in excess LDL mixed with other substances clog the arteries and form plaque.

What is HDL cholesterol?

HDL is the lightest and densest lipoprotein. It is called the good cholesterol as it helps the body in a variety of ways and reduces the risk of heart diseases. It scavenges and removes LDL cholesterol reduces, reuses and recycles LDL cholesterol by transporting it to the liver where it can be processed. HDL cholesterol keeps the inner walls of the blood vessels healthy by removing fat depositions. Damage to the inner walls is the first step in the process of atherosclerosis, which causes heart attacks and strokes. Unlike LDL cholesterol, high HDL cholesterol is good news. I fact if your HDL cholesterol levels are higher than 60 mg/dL it is considered healthy and you are at a low risk of suffering from heart diseases whereas a reading less than 40 mg/dL makes you susceptible to various cardiovascular risks.

If your HDL is low, here are few ways to boost it:

  • Exercise: Aerobic exercise for 30 to 60 minutes few days of the week can help pump up HDL.
  • Quitting the butt: Tobacco smoke lowers HDL, and quitting can considerably increase HDL levels.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight: Besides improving HDL levels, shedding few kilos can help reduce the risk for heart disease and multiple other health conditions.

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