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Understanding Cholesterol Classifications


What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fat-like, waxy substance found in your blood. It travels through the body and aids the production of hormones, acts as a building block for human tissue and helps the liver produce bile (which helps you digest food). Cholesterol is vital for making your body work properly.

What do my cholesterol numbers mean?

Your cholesterol numbers show how much cholesterol is circulating in your blood. Your HDL (“good” cholesterol) is the one number you want to be high (ideally above 60). Your LDL (“bad” cholesterol) should be below 100. 

Get to know your ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterols

When people speak about blood cholesterol you may hear people use the terms LDL and HDL cholesterols. If you get your cholesterol checked through a blood test, your doctor will talk about these two terms, so it’s good to know what they mean.

Cholesterol can’t travel through the body by itself. Instead, it hitches a ride with a compound of fat and protein called Lipoprotein (the taxi driver for your cholesterol). LDL and HDL are types of Lipoproteins.

LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein, but you can simply remember this as the “bad” cholesterol. This is because too much LDL cholesterol can stick to blood vessels, and as mentioned above, build up on the walls of your arteries, making it harder for blood to travel through your body or even stopping it completely. Because of this, you want to keep your LDL levels low.

HDL, on the other hand, is your friend. It stands for high-density lipoprotein and is the ‘good’ cholesterol your body needs. HDL cholesterol keeps your cardiovascular system healthy and helps remove bad cholesterol from the blood vessels by carrying it to the liver, where it’s then broken down and removed from the body.

Know your family history

Did you know high cholesterol can be inherited? Knowing that high cholesterol runs in your family might mean you need to keep tabs on it from a younger age than you might think. Asking your family about their heart health and cholesterol is important, just like you might for other health conditions.

Does drinking water lower cholesterol?

When people have high cholesterol their LDL (bad) is high, and their HDL (good) is low. Eating healthy, regular exercise and drinking plenty of water will help to bring down cholesterol levels within 2-3 weeks.

Does walking lower cholesterol?

Walking raises your “good” cholesterol and lowers your “bad” cholesterol. A brisk 30-minute walk three times per week is enough to raise your “good” cholesterol (HDL) and lower your “bad” cholesterol (LDL) a few points. This amount of exercise, even without weight loss, is shown to improve your cholesterol levels.

Sources and for more information:

Heart Foundation (Blood cholesterol),  Diabetes Australia (Cholesterol),  CSIRO (Cholesterol facts),  Pathology Tests Explained (Lipids), Heart Foundation (Five ways to lower cholesterol),  Heart Foundation (Healthy eating to protect your heart)

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