You’ve likely heard of cholesterol referred to as both “good” and “bad.” The reason for this distinction is that are two types of cholesterol in your body: HDL and LDL.
HDL or “Good” Cholesterol: Medical experts generally see High Density Lipoproteins (HDL) as good cholesterol, because HDL presence has been linked to a lowered risk of heart attack.
LDL or “Bad” Cholesterol: Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL) is viewed as “bad” cholesterol, because it can build-up and block your arteries, increasing your risk for heart attack or stroke.
Now scientists are wondering if there really is such a thing as “good” cholesterol. New research by the Cleveland Clinic shows that HDL cholesterol may become dysfunctional and harmful inside the bloodstream. Instead of preventing heart disease, this form of “good” cholesterol may in fact contribute to clogging and hardening of the arteries. This finding reveals HDL cholesterol not as a preventer, but as a potential cause of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Going forward, scientists and medical experts will pay closer attention to HDL levels when developing new diagnostic tools and treatment therapies. Here’s what you can do today to monitor your cholesterol and keep your heart healthy.
Know Your Risk
Cholesterol risk varies by your gender, age, and family history. Lifestyle factors also play a big part in your risk. If you eat an unhealthy diet, are overweight, smoke, or don’t get regular exercise, you may have a greater risk for high cholesterol levels. Talk to your medical provider about any family history of high cholesterol and get screened regularly.
Improve Your Lifestyle
Taking charge of your diet and exercise routines can help you to maintain a healthy weight and lower your cholesterol levels. Avoid foods that are high in saturated and trans-fats and enjoy foods that contain lots of fiber, including fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, oats, and beans. Fiber actually helps your body to absorb cholesterol in a healthy way. Be sure you are getting enough exercise too. Experts recommend 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each day, such as walking or biking. If you smoke, consult with your physician about tools and resources to help you quit.
In addition to lifestyle changes, medication may be a good option for bringing down cholesterol levels in some people. What are you doing to keep your heart healthy?