Cholesterol does not mix well with blood -- similar to oil and water. To help
cholesterol travel through blood to get where it is needed, the body wraps
it within water-soluble proteins. This mixture of fatty cholesterol and protein
is known as a "lipoprotein."
The good and the bad
You will generally hear about two types, often called the "good cholesterol" and
the "bad cholesterol":
- HDL (good) cholesterol -- HDL stands for High-Density Lipoproteins.
These are composed mainly of proteins with only small amounts of cholesterol.
HDLs are good because they remove cholesterol from artery walls and transport
it to the liver for elimination from the body. Higher HDL levels actually
protect against cardiovascular disease.
- LDL (bad) cholesterol -- LDL stands for Low-Density Lipoproteins.
These are composed mainly of cholesterol and have very little protein. They
are bad because they deposit cholesterol on the walls of your arteries. High
LDL levels increase the risk for cardiovascular disease.
You should also be aware of triglycerides -- another type of fat that
is transported in your blood. High triglyceride levels are another risk factor
for cardiovascular disease.
When determining heart disease risk, physicians take your whole lipid profile
into account, with particular focus on the LDL value.
You want HDL to be HIGH.
You want LDL to be LOW.
Review Date: 10/31/2006
Reviewed By: Alan Greene, M.D., F.A.A.P., Department of Pediatrics, Packard Children's Hospital, Stanford University School of Medicine; Chief Medical Officer, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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