Cholesterol 101

-Aidan and McKinnley

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a health promoting substance. It Is made by the body but can also be taken from foods.

Why do we need Cholesterol?

  1. A critical component of cell membranes --> the structure of cell walls
  2. Needed to make hormones
  3. Needed to make vitamin D
  4. Needed to make bile acids in the intestines that help us digest

HDL (Good) Cholesterol

HDL cholesterol is considered “good” cholesterol because it helps remove LDL cholesterol from the arteries. Experts believe HDL acts as a scavenger, carrying LDL cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it is broken down and passed from the body. One-fourth to one-third of blood cholesterol is carried by HDL. A healthy level of HDL cholesterol may also protect against heart attack and stroke, while low levels of HDL cholesterol have been shown to increase the risk of heart disease.

our HDL Cholesterol levels are considered "good" if they are high. Men: above 40 mg/dLWomen: above 50 mg/dL are ideal numbers.

LDL (Bad) Cholesterol

LDL cholesterol is considered the “bad” cholesterol because it contributes to plaque, a thick, hard deposit that can clog arteries and make them less flexible. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. If a clot forms and blocks a narrowed artery, heart attack or stroke can result. Another condition called peripheral artery disease can develop when plaque buildup narrows an artery supplying blood to the legs.

Your LDL Cholesterol levels are considered "good" if they are low. 100 - 129 mg/dL is ideal.

VLDL and Triglycerides

VLDL is another type of cholesterol, it is considered a type of bad cholesterol because it helps cholesterol build up on the walls of arteries.

Triglycerides are a type of body fat used to store energy and give energy to muscles, paired with high LDL levels, high triglyceride levels increase your chance for a heart


-Triglycerides are often elevated when HDL and LDL are elevated.

How do you know?

Cholesterol screening measures the levels of HDL and LDL in your blood stream.

  1. A small sample of blood is drawn from your arm
  2. The blood is then taken to the lab and analyzed
  3. After the tests have been ran the doctor will interpret the cholesterol numbers, including family history

How Does High Cholesterol Cause Heart Disease?

When you have too much cholesterol, it builds up in the walls of your arteries, This buildup causes the arteries to harden -- a process called atherosclerosis. It also narrows the arteries, which slows and even blocks the flow of blood. That’s where the problem starts. Your blood is supposed to carry oxygen to all parts of your body, including your heart muscle. Without enough oxygen, your body’s parts won’t function the way they’re supposed to. For instance, if your heart muscle doesn’t get enough blood and oxygen you'll have chest pain. And if the blood supply to a portion of your heart is completely cut off, you’ll have a heart attack.

How does intake of unsaturated, saturated, and trans fats affect cholesterol levels and overall health?

Unsaturated fats are called good fats because they can improve blood cholesterol levels, ease inflammation, stabilize heart rhythms, and play a number of other beneficial roles. Unsaturated fats are predominantly found in foods from plants, such as vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds. They are liquids at room temperature.

Eating good fats in place of saturated fat lowers the “bad” LDL cholesterol, and it improves the ratio of total cholesterol to “good” HDL cholesterol, lowering the risk of heart disease. Eating good fats in place of saturated fat can also help prevent insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes.

Trans fats are worse for cholesterol levels than saturated fats because they raise bad LDL and lower good HDL. They also fire inflammation, an overactivity of the immune system that has been implicated in heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic conditions

How to Improve your HDL and LDL levels

Eat more nuts

In an analysis of 25 different studies on walnuts, pecans, almonds, peanuts, pistachios, and macadamia nuts, researchers at Loma Linda University found that eating 67 grams of nuts per day—that's a little more than two ounces—increased the ratio of HDL to LDL in the blood by 8.3%

Boost your endurance

Researchers in Japan found that exercising for 20 minutes a day increases your HDL by 2.5 points. That's not much, but for every additional 10 minutes per day you keep huffing in the gym, you add an extra 1.4 points to your HDL.

Drink cranberry juice

University of Scranton scientists found that volunteers who drank three 8-ounce glasses a day for a month increased their HDL-cholesterol levels by 10%, enough to cut heart-disease risk by almost 40%.

Cholesterol Diet

"Super Foods" that can help lower your cholesterol levels
  1. Soy foods (15g a day) - soy milk, edamame beans and tofu
  2. Nuts - a handful a day
  3. Oats and barley - providing the soluble fiber beta glucan
  4. Plant sterols/stanols - found in a wide range of foods
  5. Fruits and vegetables
  6. Foods rich in unsaturated fats - canola and vegetable oils

"Bad" Foods that are bad for cholesterol levels

  1. Butter
  2. Ghee
  3. Hard margarines
  4. Lard
  5. Fatty and processed meat
  6. Dairy fats

How do statins work to lower cholesterol?

Statins are drugs that can lower your cholesterol. They work by blocking a substance your body needs to make cholesterol. Statins may also help your body reabsorb cholesterol that has built up in plaques on your artery walls, preventing further blockage in your blood vessels and heart attacks.

Statins quickly reduce LDL, the "bad," cholesterol by 50% or more.

Statins boost HDL, the "good" cholesterol, by up to 15%.

Risks of taking Cholesterol lowering drugs

The upside of taking Cholesterol lowering drugs is tremendous, although muscle pain and weakness are known complications of statins.


"What Is Cholesterol?" - NHLBI, NIH. NIH. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <>.

"Cholesterol's Importance to the Cell Membrane." Cholesterol's Importance to the Cell Membrane. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <>.