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An Explanatory Guide on LDL, or “Bad Cholesterol”- HealthifyMe

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An Explanatory Guide on LDL, or “Bad Cholesterol”- HealthifyMe


The human body needs cholesterol to perform specific functions, but high blood cholesterol levels increase the risk of coronary heart disease. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), high cholesterol (total blood cholesterol of 200 mg/dL) affects nearly two out of every five adults in the United States. 

Having too much cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, the two leading causes of death in the United States. Over half of those with high cholesterol also take medication to lower their cholesterol.

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is necessary for overall health. It is made in the liver and is essential for hormone production and the breakdown of fats in food. Although the human body produces the most cholesterol, many animal foods contain dietary cholesterol, including eggs, fish, meat, poultry, and dairy products. 

There are two types of cholesterol: high-density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as “good cholesterol,” and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as “bad cholesterol.” 

HDL cholesterol helps to protect against heart disease, while LDL cholesterol can build up in the arteries and lead to heart disease.

The Significance and the Ease of Maintaining Cholesterol Levels

Cholesterol is an essential metabolic health indicator because it helps identify insulin resistance. Research shows that hyperinsulinemia and central obesity frequently accompany insulin resistance

These are the root causes of the overproduction of very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol. As a result, your body has fewer HDL, more triglyceride-rich particles, and more small, dense LDL particles. 

HealthifyPro’s five-step approach to a healthy metabolism includes features like Continuous Glucose Monitoring, and real-time feedback from professional coaches may be helpful. With the help of these features, you can help achieve improved metabolic health and maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

A lipid profile is a test that measures the levels of lipids in your blood. Lipids are a type of fat that includes cholesterol and triglycerides. The test results can help show whether you have a higher risk for heart disease. However, knowing your cholesterol level will help create the best health plan for you. But the biggest concern is deciding what suits you the best.

Is Any Cholesterol Bad?

As previously stated, LDL cholesterol is commonly referred to as “bad cholesterol.” However, is every form of cholesterol really “bad”? Not at all; cholesterol isn’t bad for you. Because your body needs cholesterol to perform vital bodily functions. However, LDL cholesterol is bad. 

Lipoproteins include two types of proteins that carry cholesterol throughout the blood. These lipoproteins include HDL (high-density lipoprotein), or “good” cholesterol, and LDL (low-density lipoprotein), or “bad” cholesterol. It is common practice to use the terms “LDL cholesterol” and “LDL” interchangeably. 

Cholesterol is necessary for the body to make healthy cells, produce hormones, and protect nerves. However, excessive levels of LDL cholesterol can lead to several health issues. The majority of people have a normal level that is below 100 mg/dL. Diet, exercise, and quitting smoking can all help lower your LDL. 

Why is LDL the “BAD” cholesterol?

A pervasive question may arise: If the body needs cholesterol to function, why is one type considered harmful? As “good” and “bad” cholesterol research has undergone significant changes over the past few years. Keep reading this article to learn everything there is to know about LDL, supported by the most recent research.

Understanding LDL Cholesterol

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is a small, dense lipoprotein particle composed of a cholesterol core surrounded by a rim of amphipathic lipids. LDL comes from VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein) through catabolic modification in the liver.

LDL transports cholesterol and triglycerides from the liver to peripheral tissues for use in membrane synthesis and other vital processes. In addition, LDL serves as a precursor for bile acid synthesis.

LDL is often called “bad cholesterol” because it can contribute to plaque build-up in your arteries, increasing your risk of heart attack or stroke. The LDL may arise when people consume foods high in saturated fat, such as red meat and full-fat dairy.

How do LDL Cholesterol and HDL Cholesterol differ?

How can people determine which cholesterol is “good” or “bad” for their health?

There are two kinds of lipoproteins: LDL and HDL. They contain protein and fat (lipids). The lipids must be attached to the proteins to move through the blood. Therefore, the majority of your body’s cholesterol is LDL. The remaining cholesterol is HDL, also known as “good” cholesterol.

Role of HDL Cholesterol vs LDL Cholesterol

LDL Cholesterol: Lipoproteins with a low density are called LDL. Because too much LDL cholesterol travels through blood vessels and causes cholesterol to build up on the sides of arteries, it is sometimes referred to as “bad” cholesterol. Eventually, those vessels may narrow due to this build-up, called “plaque.” 

If your blood vessels are narrower, blood cannot easily reach your heart and other organs. A severe restriction in blood flow can cause chest pain, angina, and even a heart attack.

HDL Cholesterol: The word “HDL” refers to high-density lipoproteins. Because it brings cholesterol back to your liver from other body parts, it is sometimes referred to as “good cholesterol.” 

The liver then eliminates the cholesterol from your body. High HDL levels can help prevent atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes.

What is the Normal Range for LDL Cholesterol?

LDL should be below 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) for most adults, but 129 mg/dL is also optimum for healthy people.

The NIH classifies LDL cholesterol levels into the following categories:

LDL Cholesterol CategoryLDL Cholesterol Category
Normalless than 100 mg/dL
Optimumfrom 100 to 129 mg/dL
Borderlinefrom 130 to 159 mg/dL
Highfrom 160 to 189 mg/dL
Extremely highat least 190 mg/dL

Note:

  • Your risk of cardiovascular disease increases when your LDL level is higher than 100 mg/dL.
  • Your LDL should be below 70 mg/dL if you have a history of atherosclerosis.

The HealthifyMe Note

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is found in every cell of the body. It is necessary for proper body function, but too much LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol can lead to plaque formation in the arteries. As a result, it can cause heart disease, stroke, and other problems in the future. Hence, it is essential to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. In addition, you must make lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Medications may also be necessary. Talk to your doctor about the risk factors for high LDL cholesterol and what you can do to reduce your risk.

Risks of High LDL (Bad) Cholesterol

If you have high LDL cholesterol, you might not be aware of it because it hardly causes any symptoms. However, routine blood testing can pick up on this.

If your LDL levels are exceptionally high, you might develop xanthomas, which are tiny skin bumps, or corneal arcus, which are white, grey, or green rings that surround the corneas of your eyes.

Having high levels of LDL cholesterol can increase your risk of problems like:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Peripheral artery disease
  • Carotid artery disease
  • Atherosclerosis, which is the accumulation of plaque throughout the body
  • Stroke
  • Sudden heart diseases, such as angina and cardiac arrest

Long-term high cholesterol-related complications may necessitate medication or surgery for some people.

Factors Affecting LDL Cholesterol Level

Several factors can influence your LDL level.

Diet

If you consume saturated fat and cholesterol in your food, your blood cholesterol level will increase. Fatty meats, bakery items, full-fat dairy products, processed foods, and fast food all contain a lot of saturated fat and, in some cases, trans fat. When you consume these two types of fat, your LDL cholesterol will rise.

Read More: Cholesterol Diet Plan – Foods to Eat, Types, and Symptoms

Weight Gain

Being overweight or obese raises your total cholesterol level, lowers your HDL level, and raises your LDL level.

Lack of Exercise

Following a sedentary lifestyle or not exercising enough can lead to weight gain, which raises LDL cholesterol levels in the body.

Smoking

Smoking leads to increased LDL cholesterol levels. When you smoke, your HDL cholesterol drops. To remove extra LDL cholesterol from the arteries, you need a healthy amount of HDL cholesterol; a lower HDL level can result in a higher LDL level.

Gender and Age

Women have lower total cholesterol levels before menopause. However, LDL levels typically rise in women after menopause. Furthermore, cholesterol levels naturally rise as you get older.

Genetics

Genes play a crucial role in the production of cholesterol in your body. You can be in danger if you have a biological family history of high cholesterol.

Medication

LDL levels can increase if people take certain medications, such as steroids, some blood pressure medications, and HIV/AIDS medications.

Medical Condition

A higher LDL level may result in diabetes, chronic renal disease etc.

Diagnosis of LDL Cholesterol

In terms of LDL cholesterol test results, lower levels are preferable. A lipid panel or a standard blood test is the easiest way to determine whether you have too much LDL cholesterol. This lipid panel shows your LDL, HDL, and other non-HDL cholesterol levels, which can raise your risk of cardiovascular problems.

If your LDL cholesterol level is higher than your doctor thinks is ideal for you, you will be diagnosed with “high cholesterol.” In addition, your doctor will look at your lab results to see if your HDL, or good cholesterol, is too low.

Your doctor will also ask about your family history because high cholesterol can occasionally be inherited. Also, your doctor may recommend further tests and appointments if they think you need medications or additional care.

The HealthifyMe Note

Health experts advise testing your blood cholesterol every four to six years. However, you may require it more frequently if you have diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, or other chronic conditions; consult your doctor. Your doctor could advise an LDL target of 70 mg/dL or less if you have diabetes or heart disease.

Weight Loss Success Story – Deepanshu Cut Down Cholesterol & Lost 14 kg In 12 Months

Who Needs a Check Up?

It is no secret that people with high cholesterol are more likely to develop heart disease. Recently, research suggests that people with moderately high cholesterol for a prolonged period and elevated blood pressure may be at an equal risk of developing heart disease as people with high cholesterol for a short time.

As per experts, everyone should have their cholesterol checked, starting at age 20 and every four to six years if their risk remains low.

Your physician might recommend more frequent level checks once you reach the age of 40. Typically, men and women between the ages of 55 and 65 should have their cholesterol checked every one to two years.

Ways to Lower LDL Cholesterol Level

There are several ways to lower your LDL cholesterol. Adopting a healthy lifestyle habit can make a big difference for most people. If lifestyle changes are insufficient, your doctor may prescribe medication to lower cholesterol levels.

Here are some suggestions from HealthifyMe experts for managing and preventing high cholesterol. You can make the following modifications:

Lifestyle Modifications

Suppose the lipid test indicates that LDL levels are high or borderline high. In that case, your doctor may suggest lifestyle modifications such as following a heart-healthy diet, consuming low amounts of trans and saturated fats, regular exercise, managing weight, etc. Lifestyle modifications affect overall cholesterol levels, depending on the circumstances.

Follow a Heart-healthy Diet

A heart-healthy diet cuts down on trans and saturated fats. According to research, following the Mediterranean diet may lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. On this diet, you should eat healthy fats like olive oil and nuts and avoid unhealthy fats like saturated fat. Another study indicates that Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes in diet can also lower cholesterol.

Read more: 7 Day Heart Healthy Meal Plan: 1200 – 1500 Calories

Reduce Your Intake of Saturated and Trans Fats

LDL, and total cholesterol can arise when you consume a diet high in saturated fats, which are present in many processed foods and animal products like full-fat dairy.

Avoid foods high in saturated fat, cholesterol, or simple carbohydrates like sugar and white flour. Increase your intake of nuts and veggies, which are rich in plant sterols and fibre.

Physical Activity

Exercise reduces LDL levels and increases the size of LDL particles, thereby lowering plaque formation in the coronary arteries. It improves the amount of HDL cholesterol in your body.

The AHA suggests engaging at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week. If you’re just starting with a regular fitness regimen, start simple (only five or 10 minutes at a time) and gradually increase your time. Consult your physician before beginning a new exercise routine or altering an existing one.

Quit Tobacco

Now is the time to stop using tobacco products or smoking. Smoking damages blood vessel walls, making it easier for plaque to build up in them. Also, smoking reduces HDL cholesterol levels. If you’re having trouble quitting, your doctor can help you find the best program.

Weight Management

A body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher is more likely to cause unhealthy LDL and total cholesterol levels. Losing even 5 to 10 pounds can bring your LDL cholesterol down if you are overweight. Find out your appropriate weight range by speaking with your physician.

Cholesterol Lowering Medications

Sometimes, adopting healthy habits alone is insufficient to reduce LDL cholesterol. You might also need to take drugs based on your lifestyle, genetic risk factors, and family history. In that case, your physician might suggest some medication to lower your LDL cholesterol and overall risk of getting a heart problem.

For example, Statins, a type of cholesterol-lowering medication, prevent the body from producing cholesterol. However, the adverse effects and modes of action of drugs can vary. You should speak with a healthcare professional if you want advice on which treatment option is best for you.

Conclusion

To lessen your risk of cardiovascular disease, healthcare professionals mostly recommend having higher HDL cholesterol levels, preferably above 60, and lower LDL cholesterol levels. If your HDL is too low and your LDL is too high, your doctor may also recommend taking medication to lower your cholesterol levels. Even if you take cholesterol-lowering medications, you should still make lifestyle changes.

If you’re under 40, you might only need to get your cholesterol levels examined every few years. However, monitoring your cholesterol levels is crucial, especially if you have a family history of high cholesterol. 

The HealthifyMe app can help you better understand food options based on your LDL cholesterol and other metabolic indicators. Moreover, HealthifyMe allows you to reach your fitness and weight loss objectives by making simple changes and keeping track of your diet and exercise.

The HealthifyMe platform is the largest health and fitness platform in Asia. It offers various services that can help you understand what dietary options are available based on your cholesterol level and other health concerns. These services include personalised trainers, diet programmes, and food and exercise monitors that easily sync with other fitness equipment and your phone.

The HealthifyMe app is a comprehensive health and fitness tracking app that includes features for tracking food, exercise, water intake, sleep, and weight loss. The app also provides home workout videos for both men and women that don’t require equipment, easing the process of getting in shape and losing weight. In addition, the app tracks the calories of more than 100,000 Indian foods and creates highly personalized diet plans from top nutritionists and trainers that consider your current cholesterol level, target weight, calculated BMI, calorie limit, and dietary preferences.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. What does it mean when LDL is high? 

A. A high LDL level indicates an excess of LDL cholesterol in the blood. This additional LDL and other particles combine to produce plaque. The build-up of this plaque in your arteries, known as arteriosclerosis, reduces blood flow and results in coronary artery disease.

Q. What’s a normal LDL level?

A. Although having low LDL cholesterol is beneficial, the body needs cholesterol to perform regular functions. The CDC recommends that LDL cholesterol levels be less than 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). On the other hand, an LDL level of more than 160 is regarded as high. So, keep your LDL level between 100 and 129 mg/dL, which is close to optimal. However, if you have diabetes or heart disease, you should keep your LDL level below 70 mg/dL.

Q. What should I do if my LDL is high?  

A. If your LDL cholesterol level exceeds the recommended range of 100–129 mg/dL. The first step is to modify your lifestyle by eating a healthy diet, exercising, reducing stress, and not drinking alcohol or smoking. But if you make these changes but your LDL cholesterol is still high, talk to your doctor. They might give you some drugs to lower it.

Q. How can I lower my LDL in 30 days?  

A. The body needs cholesterol for many vital physiological functions, but when LDL cholesterol levels are out of control, they can clog arteries and lead to heart disease. Lifestyle changes are the first line of treatment if your LDL is out of balance. Unsaturated fats, soluble fibre, and plant sterols can increase good cholesterol and decrease bad cholesterol. Exercise and weight loss may also help. To maintain a healthy cholesterol level, avoiding smoking, trans fats, and added sugars is essential. Consuming foods and supplements, like soy and green tea, can lower overall cholesterol.

Q. What foods cause high LDL? 

A. High LDL can be caused by saturated fats found in red meat, fried foods, butter, cheese, baked goods, and other full-fat dairy products. Instead, eating whole fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and a healthy diet high in fibre can help a person keep their cholesterol levels at their best. By limiting your intake of saturated fats to less than 7% of your daily calorie intake, you can lower your LDL cholesterol by 8 to 10%.

Q. What foods should I avoid with high LDL? 

A. Keeping LDL cholesterol levels low is important because it lowers the risk of heart disease and stroke. An excellent way to control cholesterol levels is to avoid foods high in trans and unsaturated fats and those high in carbohydrates. It can be possible by eating fruits and vegetables high in fibre, whole grains, nuts, fatty fish, and other healthy foods.

Q. How quickly can you lower LDL levels? 

A. Cholesterol-lowering medications typically alter LDL within six to eight weeks. On the other hand, lifestyle changes can reduce cholesterol levels within a few weeks. However, it may take longer, typically three months or more. Consuming heart-healthy foods, exercising, losing weight, and quitting smoking and alcohol can all speed up this process.

Q. How long does it take for LDL to decrease? 

A. It typically depends on age, gender, cholesterol levels, and genetics, among other factors. On the other hand, if a person is taking a medication to lower their LDL level, the dosage will determine how long the effect lasts. Higher doses have significant reductions, but they come with more side effects.

Q. What are the warning signs of high cholesterol? 

A. High cholesterol levels have the potential to be fatal because they can cause arteries to become blocked or damaged, which can lead to life-threatening conditions like stroke and heart attack. It cannot exhibit any symptoms. A lipid panel or blood test is the only way to determine if you have it. However, symptoms like jaw pain, tightness in the chest, shortness of breath, and grey and white deposits around the cornea can raise concerns about high cholesterol levels.

Q. How can I lower my LDL naturally?

A. Changing your lifestyle and eating habits can bring your cholesterol to a safe level. Adopt and adhere to a low-saturated and trans-fat diet for optimal health. Also, begin consuming seeds, nuts, olives, and other healthy unsaturated fats. Reduce your alcohol and tobacco consumption, and lose weight if you are overweight. When people exercise, their HDL levels rise, which removes LDL cholesterol from the blood.

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