How Do You Tell Good From Bad Cholesterol And Does It Really Matter?

Your body is this amazing machine that keeps on working without you having to think much about it. The reason it works so well is because of the fuels you provide for all of the parts. When they are in balance, the machine runs smoothly. But when they are out of balance, the machine sputters and dies. The balance of good and bad cholesterol is something your cardiology doctor watches closely. Here is why this are so important to keeping your machine humming.

Where Does Cholesterol Come From?

Your body manufacturers cholesterol and you can also get it from food, primarily meat and dairy products. Your liver processes it from the food you eat and sends the results to your cells to fuel their activities.

If your food doesn't contain enough cholesterol, the liver makes it. It creates a substance called lipoprotein and sends it out to your body where it breaks down into cholesterol. When your doctor tests your blood to get a cholesterol level, they are interested in this lipoprotein.

You Need Both Good and Bad Cholesterol

When your doctor says you have too much bad cholesterol, they are talking about one type of lipoprotein called low density lipoprotein, or LDL. The good cholesterol is contained in high density lipoproteins, or HDL. Your LDL and HDL must be in balance or you'll begin to see deposits of plaque on blood vessel walls. This the cause of atherosclerosis, or narrowing or the blood vessels, which can cause heart attack or stroke. When your LDL level is too high, the machine could sputter and die.

What Causes the Imbalance?

Most causes of high cholesterol come from lifestyle choices, some of which have a big impact on your health such as:

  • eating foods high in saturated fat
  • being overweight
  • having a sedentary lifestyle
  • having uncontrolled diabetes
  • smoking, because it decreases the good cholesterol

A few factors are out of your control, such as:

  • an aging body tends to have higher cholesterol levels
  • men generally have higher cholesterol levels than women
  • a family history of high cholesterol can cause the imbalance

Keeping the Machine Running Well

Getting your cholesterol checked regularly is a good way to track your good and bad cholesterol. For minor imbalances, simple adjustments to your diet can make things right. When the difference is extreme, your cardiologist can prescribe medications to offset the high cholesterol level. These medications work best when you make some lifestyle changes to support a healthy heart including:

  • eating leaner cuts of meat and varying the type of protein you eat such as chicken, pork and fish
  • increasing exercise levels to improve circulation and digestion of cholesterol-rich foods
  • reduce your excess weight which puts stress on your heart
  • stop smoking to allow your good cholesterol level to increase

Ultimately, you are in control of how well your machine runs. Develop some of these heart-healthy habits and have a regular cholesterol screening. Talk to your doctor for additional info about how to keep your body running smoothly.