What is the difference between LDL & HDL cholesterol?
There are five major groups of lipoproteins and low density lipoprotein (LDL which is considered to be the “bad” cholesterol) is but one of them while the others are: chylomicrons, very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL), intermediate-density lipoprotein (IDL), and high-density lipoprotein (HDL which is known as the “good” or the “healthy” cholesterol). Since cholesterol is a waxy lipid alcohol found in membranes of cells that cannot be dissolved in blood, it needs lipoproteins to transport it to and from cells within the blood stream. It is the low density lipoprotein (LDL) that carries cholesterol along with triglycerides from the liver to other tissues of the body where it also controls cholesterol synthesis. Initially, LDL is produced as VLDL but then it loses its triglycerides and decreases its size while increasing its density and levels of cholesterol.
Too much cholesterol?
When an overabundance of the “bad” LDL cholesterol is present in the blood stream, it often accumulates in the inner walls of the arteries which feed into the heart and the brain. When the LDL cholesterol combines with other substances, plaque (a thick hardened layer) forms and causes arteries to narrow and become inflexible. This results in a potentially life threatening conditions called atherosclerosis, because blood clots can easily become lodged in the narrowed arteries, cause a blockage and lead to a heart attack, a stroke or a peripheral vascular disease.
The LDL cholesterol itself is not “bad” for it is the same as the cholesterol carried on other lipoprotein particles. It is the means by which the cholesterol is being carried as well as its destination, its quantities and the size of the particles that are “bad.” Studies have shown that the large LDL particles are preferable to the small ones. Although the overall cholesterol content may be equal, it is ideal to have a smaller concentration of large LDL particles than a larger concentration of small ones which are blamed for the onset of severe cardiovascular disease.
Lowering Cholesterol Counts by Modifying the Diet
To lower cholesterol counts, a modification in lifestyle which involves decreasing the intake of saturated fats such as found in meats and certain oils and, at the same time, increasing the intake of cholesterol-lowering foods. The foods that are most likely to lower cholesterol counts are:
- Oatmeal. Oatmeal contains water soluble fiber which lowers LDL cholesterol. The same kind of water soluble fiber is also found in oat bran, kidney beans, apples, pears, barley and prunes.
- Nuts. Walnuts, almonds and other kinds of nuts are rich with polyunsaturated fatty acids which increase the elasticity of blood vessels and their overall health and, therefore, also reduce LDL cholesterol.
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids. Fatty fish and fish oils are rich with Omega 3 fatty acids which lower LDL cholesterol and also reduce blood pressure and the risk of blood clots.
- Olive Oil. Olive oil and its antioxidants lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol but leave the “good” HDL cholesterol intact.
- Plant Sterols or Stanols. These are additives derived from plants that are found in certain foods such as margarines, orange juice and yogurts, and they help block the absorption of cholesterol.
When a diet is not enough to lower LDL cholesterol, modern medicine is well endowed with a variety of pharmaceuticals such as: Clofibrate, Torcetrapib, Niacin (B3) and Tocotrienols.