Good and Bad Cholesterol

Cholesterol has an important role to play in your body, but did you know that not all cholesterol is the same? In fact, there are two types of cholesterol, sometimes known as “good” and “bad” cholesterol. It’s important to know which is which, since elevated (bad) cholesterol is a risk factor in the development of heart disease; good cholesterol, however, has a different role in the body.

What is bad cholesterol?

What we sometimes call “bad cholesterol” is also known as Low Density Lipoprotein, or LDL. We talk about LDL-cholesterol when we say a person has ‘high cholesterol’ – it means that they have too much LDL-cholesterol circulating in their bloodstream.

What is good cholesterol?

The term “good cholesterol” is often used to refer to a substance called HDL. This type of cholesterol helps to remove cholesterol from the arteries and carry it back to the liver, where it can be eliminated.

You can find out more about these two types of cholesterol by checking out our articles on LDL-cholesterol and HDL-cholesterol here.

How do I check my cholesterol levels?

A simple blood test can be used to check your cholesterol levels, while your GP can provide further advice about how to interpret the results. You can also find out about the recommended amounts of good and bad cholesterol in our article on cholesterol ratios.

How do we get good and bad cholesterol?

Both types of cholesterol are produced by the body, but are also present in the food we eat. If you’ve had a cholesterol test and the results suggest that your cholesterol is elevated, it’s a good idea to try to make small changes to your diet to help lower your “bad cholesterol”.

For example, certain foods, such as those containing high amounts of saturated fat, are better swapped for foods containing polyunsaturated fat*. Adopting a healthy diet with plenty of different kinds of food can also help you maintain your cholesterol at a recommended level.

Eating foods containing added plant sterols, which have been shown to help lower blood cholesterol, is another option – a daily consumption of 1.5-2.4g of plant sterols can lower cholesterol 7-10% in 2-3 weeks as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle, with sufficient fruit and vegetables.*

Looking for food inspiration? For diet and recipe ideas, check our helpful pages here, or try out our Simple Food Swaps.

* High cholesterol is a risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease. There are many risk factors for coronary heart disease and it is important to take care of all of them to reduce overall risk of it.

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