LDL cholesterol is what we commonly call bad-cholesterol, or more simply just cholesterol.
When someone says "I need to lower my cholesterol levels" it's implied that they have to lower the LDL type.
Cholesterol is component of our body, essential to produce several important hormones and for the formation of cell membranes, especially nerve cells.
It is produced by the body, especially by the liver and, in part, absorbed through food.
You can find cholesterol in all foods that come from animals (meat, poultry, eggs, milk, cheese), while it is not present in any food of plant origin (legumes, vegetables, fruits).
If you want to know more read What is Cholesterol?
What is LDL Cholesterol or Bad Cholesterol?
LDL stands for low density lipoproteins.
It is the type of cholesterol that can be more harmful to our health and especially for the heart, because these lipoproteins carry cholesterol from the liver to the blood vessels.
A high level of LDL cholesterol increases the risk of stroke and heart attack (more than 190 mg/dL).
The lower you keep these values, the lower is the risk of suffering from cardiovascular diseases.
What is HDL Cholesterol or Good Cholesterol?
HDL stands for high density lipoprotein.
HDL cholesterol is considered "good" as it seems to reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke, because lipoproteins remove excess cholesterol from the arteries and transport it to the liver where it is eliminated.
This means that, unlike what happens for the other type of cholesterol, the higher this value, the lower the risk.
HDL cholesterol can be increased by quitting smoking, losing excess weight and living a more active life.
How to Interpret Cholesterol Levels
High cholesterol indicates that is increasing the risk of suffering a stroke or a heart attack.
This is the reason why it is advisable to keep the values of cholesterol always under control and discuss it with your doctor.
With a simple test, the test of the "lipoprotein profile", you can check the values of cholesterol in the blood, both LDL (the so-called bad cholesterol) and HDL (the so-called good cholesterol), and also the level of triglycerides (bad fats).
Why Can High Cholesterol Be Dangerous?
If in our body there are high levels of cholesterol, this is deposited on the inner surface of blood vessels, forming plaques that, in the long run, may restrict them. In severe cases, the plaques can block the arteries completely, causing heart attacks or strokes.
Symptoms of High Cholesterol
Usually people find out that they have high cholesterol levels (again, we mean high LDL cholesterol levels, the bad one) from blood test that they scheduled for other reasons.
Especially if you are not a youngster anymore, for example you may have done blood tests to check hormone levels and the doctor came back saying "It's all good, but you have high cholesterol".
This is very common, in fact high cholesterol in the human body works slowly and doesn't give any symptoms.
Precisely for this reason it is important to try to find out what are the levels of total cholesterol (HDL and LDL) in the blood by performing periodic tests.
Is It Possible to Reduce Cholesterol Levels?
Too high cholesterol levels in the blood, especially when associated with other risk factors such as smoking, obesity, diabetes and sedentary lifestyle, can lead to stroke and heart failure.
You can reduce these levels by observing a healthy diet and low in fat, losing weight and doing regular moderate physical activity.
There are, however, people who are forced to take drugs because changing their diet or losing weight may not be enough to reduce cholesterol levels.
Diet to Lower Cholesterol Levels
I wrote a specific article that talks about low cholesterol diet in details, but since this is an important matter, it doesn't hurt to repeat the summary here.
A healthy diet can help to control LDL cholesterol levels in the blood.
The choice should fall mainly on foods there are low in fat (lipids) and obviously in cholesterol.
We know that proteins, fatty acids and soy isoflavones have the ability to lower LDL cholesterol, so all the products made from soybeans are considered optimal.
Even the olive oil and the oils from corn and sunflower seeds (to be consumed strictly raw) are rich in unsaturated fats that reduce the formation of plaques of cholesterol, keeping the cardiovascular system healthy.
Green light also to white meat and fish, especially for fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which promote the synthesis of "good" HDL cholesterol.
Finally vegetables and fruit: in addition to being free of cholesterol they are high in fiber, which helps reducing the absorption of fat.
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