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What’s the Difference Between Good and Bad Cholesterol?

What’s the Difference Between Good and Bad Cholesterol?

Cholesterol, shmolesterol. It’s all the same, right? 

Well, not exactly. There’s cholesterol —  the waxy substance made by your liver — that assists your body in manufacturing hormones, cells, and vitamins, and cholesterol that hurts it. 

As an important indicator of your overall health, Dr. Gurprit Sekhon keeps tabs on your good and bad cholesterol and offers many other services and treatments to keep you well. She and the Nu Wave Medical Center team also provides high-quality routine care and advanced treatment and management for chronic conditions such as diabetes.

Cholesterol is a factor in the development of many health conditions

Dr. Sekhon may speak with you about “knowing your numbers” — being aware of some basic, but important numbers that tell you much about your health and your risk for serious conditions like heart attack and stroke. 

Part of your annual wellness exam involves checking on these numbers, which include your blood pressure reading, weight, blood glucose level, and cholesterol. When these are in the healthy range, you have lots going for your health.

The purpose of cholesterol

As we mentioned before, waxy cholesterol performs important work in your body:

Cholesterol is absolutely necessary for your body and systems to function properly, but your liver makes all the cholesterol that your body needs. The dilemma is that we also get cholesterol from the food we eat, and that’s where we can run into trouble. 

Good versus bad cholesterol

Cholesterol travels throughout your body via your blood and the two types are HDL (high-density lipoproteins) and LDL (low-density lipoproteins) cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is considered the “good” cholesterol, while LDL is considered the “bad” cholesterol.

Why? Because too much LDL cholesterol causes plaque to collect on the walls of your arteries, which hardens them. This hardening causes your blood vessels to narrow, which makes your circulation less efficient. Then your body has a harder time delivering all-important oxygen-filled blood to your organs and tissues. 

The other serious thing that high LDL cholesterol increases your risk for is a blood clot, which can be deadly. If a clot forms, it can move and block blood from reaching your brain or heart, causing a stroke or heart attack. 

Your HDL, or good cholesterol, on the other hand, does something not just good, but life-saving: It aids your body in removing LDL cholesterol from your arteries and delivering it to your liver, where it’s broken down and eliminated from your body. 

We also measure a type of cholesterol you may not have heard of before, very-low-density lipoprotein, or VLDL. Unfortunately, it’s considered another type of bad cholesterol because, like LDL cholesterol, it again contributes to the accumulation of plaque on the walls of your arteries, and it even carries another kind of fat, triglycerides. 

Understanding your cholesterol reading

Cholesterol is measured in milligrams per deciliter, or mg/dL. When you visit us for your appointment and we want to get a cholesterol reading, we draw a blood sample for a lipid profile. This gives Dr. Sekhon a good deal of information. 

A favorable cholesterol reading should read like this: Your HDL (good) cholesterol should be 50 mg/dL or more, your LDL (bad) cholesterol should read 100 mg/dL or below, and your triglycerides should be under 150 mg/dL. 

Your overall cholesterol should be 200 mg/dL or under to be considered good and healthy. A 200-239 mg/dL reading is considered borderline high, and 240 mg/dL or above puts you in the high cholesterol category. 

Don’t be discouraged if your cholesterol isn’t where it should be. Dr. Sekhon partners with you to lower your LDL and VLDL, and grow your HDL number. Health habits that help move your cholesterol reading into the healthy zone include:

We offer a medically supervised weight loss program if you do need to lose weight, and if you smoke, quit ASAP, because that has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol. 

If you adopt all of these habits but your cholesterol remains in need of improvement, Dr. Sekhon can also prescribe cholesterol-lowering medications to help even more. 

Becoming informed about your health is the best medicine. Call our office to schedule a consultation with Dr. Sekhon, or book one online

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