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Is There Such a Thing as Good Cholesterol?

After years of being told high cholesterol increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, it may be hard to believe that there’s such a thing as good cholesterol. For the record, high cholesterol isn’t good for your health or your heart, but not all cholesterol is the same.

Here at Health Solutions, with offices in Munster, Indiana, and Tinley Park, Rockford, and Olympia Fields, Illinois, our team of board-certified family physicians specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of high cholesterol. 

We want you to know a little bit more about what your cholesterol means, and why we may encourage you to work on increasing your good cholesterol numbers.    

Total cholesterol: Mix of good and bad

When we check your cholesterol numbers, you may focus on your total cholesterol. Though important, this number includes low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol. 

LDL cholesterol

The majority of your total cholesterol comes from your LDL cholesterol. Your body uses LDL cholesterol to repair damaged cells. 

However, when you have too much LDL cholesterol in your blood, it combines with other substances to create plaque. Plaque sticks to the walls of the blood vessels, narrowing or blocking the flow of blood and increasing risk of heart disease, a heart attack, and stroke. 

LDL is known as the bad cholesterol. 

VLDL cholesterol

VLDL transports triglycerides in your blood. Though not the same and LDL cholesterol, VLDL cholesterol contributes to the buildup of plaque along your blood vessel walls and is a type of bad cholesterol. 

HDL cholesterol

The primary function of HDL cholesterol is to pick up excess cholesterol from your blood and body and return it to your liver. Your liver then processes and eliminates the cholesterol. 

HDL is the good cholesterol. 

Your good cholesterol numbers

Though we encourage higher levels of HDL cholesterol, more isn’t always better.  

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, women age 20 and older should have an HDL of 50mg/dL or higher, and men age 20 and older should have an HDL of 40mg/dL or higher. 

In general, people with higher levels of HDL cholesterol tend to have a lower risk of having a heart attack or stroke. However, people with extremely high HDL cholesterol — 100mg/dL or higher — may be at greater risk of developing heart disease, says the Mayo Clinic

When you come in for your annual physical exam, we may order a blood lipid profile test to check your numbers and screen for health risks. 

Changing your cholesterol numbers

Increasing your HDL and lowering your LDL is often a package deal. You can improve both numbers making a few lifestyle changes, such as:

Lifestyle changes are also a form of preventive medicine and may reduce your risk of developing other chronic diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure

When lifestyle changes fail to improve your cholesterol numbers, we can talk to you about prescription medications that lower your bad cholesterol numbers and raise good cholesterol numbers. 

Though, for the record, cholesterol medication works best when combined with a healthy lifestyle.

To get your cholesterol levels checked, call the office most convenient to you or use the online booking tool. 

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