High blood pressure and smoking are not the only risk factors that increase the chances of having heart disease. High cholesterol is also a prominent risk factor. The good news is that people can reduce the levels of cholesterol in their blood by having a healthy diet, exercising, and not missing out on medicines.
Well, let us tell you that the two main types of cholesterol are low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol. Some amount of cholesterol is required by the body but if the levels are too high, then it is a sign of danger.
This article carefully analyzes the two types of cholesterol (HDL and LDL) and tells us what makes one good and the other bad. Also, it discusses what must be done to keep the levels in check.
HDL and LDL Cholesterol
LDL is bad cholesterol. If it is in excess in the blood, it accumulates on the walls of the blood vessels, making them stiff and narrow. When LDL cholesterol build ups, the flow of blood gets reduced and chances of stroke and heart attack rises.
HDL transports LDL from blood to liver after breaking it down and disposing it off as waste. HDL is known as good cholesterol as it decreases the level of cholesterol in blood. Higher levels of HDL reduce the risk of heart disease and heart attack.
Ideal Range of Cholesterol
Cholesterol is measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).
- Total cholesterol under 200mg/dL
- LDL below 100mg/dL
- HDL more than 40mg/dL
The correct range may vary across regions and countries.
Ratio of Total Cholesterol to HDL
This ratio can help us know if we are consuming enough good cholesterol and if should we stop consuming bad cholesterol. It can be calculated by dividing the total cholesterol with HDL. The ratio should be less than 4 practically. If the number is less, the person’s cholesterol levels are considered healthier.
Total cholesterol levels fluctuate, so one blood test might not be enough for correct assessment. Levels change for obvious reasons after having a meal so sometimes the blood test will be done first thing in the morning before a person has breakfast.
According to studies  , total cholesterol to HDL ratio is a better indicator of the risk of having heart disease than just LDL levels
There is another method of evaluating cholesterol level. This is by calculating non-HDL cholesterol level. Non- HDL cholesterol is calculated by subtracting HDL levels from total cholesterol.
This calculation also includes very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL), so it is a more accurate method. Just like LDL, VLDL can also build up inside the walls of blood vessel. The level of non-HDL cholesterol should be less than 130mg/dL. If the levels are more than this, there are chances of heart disease.
Causes of High LDL Cholesterol Levels
Causes of high LDL cholesterol levels are given below:
- Consuming Foods High in Saturated Fat: Well, diets having high amounts of saturated and hydrogenated fats can increase the levels of LDL cholesterol.
- Less Physical Activity: Not exercising enough can lead to gain in weight. This increases the cholesterol levels.
- Obesity: Overweight people have greater chances of having high cholesterol levels.
- Smoking: There is a chemical in cigarettes which decreases the level of HDL cholesterol and also causes damage to the lining of the blood vessels. This can cause hardening of the arteries.
- Medical Conditions: Conditions like type 2 diabetes , underactive thyroid and addiction to alcohol can increase the levels of LDL cholesterol.
- Menopause: In some women the cholesterol levels may shoot up after menopause.
- Genetics: High cholesterol can be inherited as in case of Familial hypercholesterolemia. This increases the chances of having heart disease.
Reducing LDL Levels
Some lifestyle changes can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels as given below:
- Keeping off excess weight and having healthy range
- Doing regular exercise
- Quitting smoking
- Taking vitamin B-3 supplement
- Going for Statin therapy
Some studies  say that vitamin B-3 can decrease the levels of LDL cholesterol and increase the levels of HDL cholesterol.
People who want to decrease LDL cholesterol should not eat saturated and trans-fat. Foods that should be avoided are:
- Cakes, pastries, and cookies
- Pizza especially frozen
- Ice cream
Some Tips to Check High LDL Cholesterol
You can follow these tips to prevent LDL levels going up:
- Replace Fat Sources: Replace saturated fats with mono unsaturated fats or nuts and seed oils
- Increase the Intake of Fiber: A high-fiber diet is good for total blood cholesterol levels. Fruits and vegetables containing soluble fiber are highly beneficial.
- Eat Garlic: Garlic can help reduce blood cholesterol. The effects of garlic can be seen if it is consumed for more than 2 months.
Ways to Raise HDL Levels
Some ways to raise your HDL levels are:
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These help in lowering the blood cholesterol. High levels of omega-3 fatty acids are in oily fish, salmon, and tuna. According to studies, eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids can increase the levels of HDL in blood.
- Fruits and Vegetables: This is because of the presence of antioxidants in bright colored fruits and vegetables, that it helps in increasing the HDL cholesterol levels.
- Regular Exercise: Physical activity can help raise the levels of HDL.
High levels of LDL cholesterol are a huge risk factor for heart disease. But it does not show any symptoms sometimes. It is advised that people above the age of 40 should get their blood tests done to get their levels of cholesterol tested.
Modifications in diet and lifestyle can help in managing the levels of HDL and LDL. If these do not work, medicines may be recommended.