HDL or LDL: Which Is Good?
- Health professionals refer to HDL (high density lipoprotein) as the good cholesterol. The HDL cholesterol particles "prevent atherosclerosis by extracting cholesterol from the artery walls and disposing of them through the liver," according to MedicineNet.com. That is why individuals want to aim for a high HDL/low LDL ratio, because high levels of LDL and low levels of HDL will put them at risk for atherosclerosis.
- LDL (low density lipoprotein) is bad cholesterol because too much of this lipid in the blood will build up on the inner walls of the arteries that lead to the heart and brain. When that happens, a condition called atherosclerosis occurs--a plaque buildup on the walls of the arteries that makes them hard and less flexible. Elevated LDL levels are associated with coronary artery disease.
Why HDL is Good
- The HDL carries the cholesterol from the artery walls and brings it to the liver where it's excreted. This helps prevent atherosclerosis, according to MedicineNet.com, which also reports, "The risk of atherosclerosis and heart attacks is strongly related to HDL cholesterol levels." HDL tends to be higher in those people who are physically fit, lean, exercise regularly and do not smoke. On the other hand, HDL (good cholesterol) is typically lower in those who smoke, are overweight and inactive, and in those with Type 2 Diabetes. Individuals should consult with their doctor to aim for a low LDL/high HDL ratio.
What Ratios Mean
- According to MedicineNet.com, the total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol ratio is: "A number that is helpful in estimating the risk of developing atherosclerosis. The number is obtained by dividing total cholesterol by HDL cholesterol." High ratios are indicative of an increased risk for a heart attack. A low ratio means a lower risk for a heart attack.
How to Raise HDL
- People need to make certain lifestyle changes in order to raise their HDL. In addition to medications their doctor may prescribe, they would need to participate in regular exercise, lose weight and quit smoking. According to MedicineNet.com, consuming one alcoholic drink a day can also aid in raising HDL.