Cholesterol

The only test you want a low score on :)

By: Kathleen Moore & Paige Harrison

LDL and HDL

LDL stands for Low-Density lipoproteins

HDL stands for HIgh-Density lipoproteins


How do they differ?


  • Structurally, they differ in their compositions. LDL particles are 50% cholesterol and 25% protein. Whereas, HDL is made of 20% cholesterol and 50% protein. Protein is more dense than fat which explains why HDL particles are more dense. LDL also contains B-100 proteins. HDL particles have A-I and A-II proteins.
  • They also differ functionally. They both transport cholesterol throughout the blood, but LDL brings cholesterol to cells throughout the body and can cause cholesterol build up in the arteries. In opposition, HDL carries cholesterol away from the heart and other organs and delivers it back to the liver where it is passed from the body.

Why should LDL and HDL be monitored?

Doctors monitor LDL and HDL to ensure that each has levels in the optimal range and so arterial blockage and heart disease may be prevented or monitored.

Cholesterol and Heart Disease

High levels of LDL and low levels of HDL in the bloodstream can increase the risk for heart disease. LDL can build up on the walls of arteries and can eventually lead to arterial blockage and an increased risk for heart disease and stroke. A stroke or arterial blockage can be caused by a piece of the accumulated plaque breaking off and getting lodged in the blood vessels. In the case of a stroke, the plaque would block blood flow to the brain.

What else is measured in blood?

Other molecules that are monitored along with HDL and LDL are hemoglobin, critinine, blood urea nitrogen, electrolytes, and glucose.

Your test will show the milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood (mg/dL).


Total blood (or serum) cholesterol
The total cholesterol in your blood is measured by the equation: HDL + LDL + 20% of the triglyceride level. 180 mg/dL, or near that, is considered a healthy cholesterol score.

HDL (good) cholesterol
To have what is considered a healthy HDL, a higher level is better. With a low HDL, comes more risk for heart disease. Low HDL often accompanies high blood triglycerides. Unhealthy habits like smoking, or certain genetic factors may also lead to a low HDL level.

LDL (bad) cholesterol
For LDL, a low score is desirable. To avoid having a high LDL level, avoid a diet high in trans fat and saturated fats.

Triglycerides
Triglyceride is a fat in the body. It is also the most common type of fat. Triglyceride levels vary due to age and sex. With a high triglyceride level and a low HDL or high LDL, the risk for atherosclerosis is raised. With atherosclerosis, there is also more of a risk for heart attacks or a stroke due to build up of fatty deposits in arteries.

What can you do to change your HDL and LDL levels?

A healthy diet and exercise can help lower your cholesterol. To prevent high cholesterol, you should stop smoking if you do. You should develop a heart-healthy eating plan with your doctor and be aware of certain fats that raise your LDL levels.

If diet and exercise are not enough, your doctor can prescribe medications.

Unsaturated, Saturated, and Trans-fats

Unsaturated

  • can improve cholesterol levels and decrease your risk for cardiovascular disease.
  • needed for proper brain function and development.
  • lower blood pressure and protect against irregular heart beats.
Saturated

  • main source is animal products like meat and dairy.
  • increases levels of LDL, or "bad" cholesterol and your risk of heart disease.
Trans-fats

  • this is the most unhealthy type of fat.
  • increases LDL levels and decreases HDL levels.
  • increases your risk of heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and coronary heart disease.

Sources

"How Fats Affect Your Body." Healthy Eating. Web. 16 Dec. 2014. <http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/fats-affect-body-3440.html>.


"Prevention and Treatment of High Cholesterol." Prevention and Treatment of High Cholesterol. Web. 17 Dec. 2014. <http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/PreventionTreatmentofHighCholesterol/Prevention-and-Treatment-of-High-Cholesterol_UCM_001215_Article.jsp>.