Knowing Your Levels: Good and Bad Cholesterol

Topics: Cholesterol , Heart Health Article Highlights
  • The differences between good and bad cholesterol
  • Measurements of what are considered healthy levels of cholesterol
  • American Heart Association recommendations for cholesterol check frequency
MR Good And Bad Cholesterol


Lacking an understanding of cholesterol, a critical indicator of heart health, can be downright dangerous. Many may know from their most recent measurement whether their cholesterol is too high or too low—that is, typically, over or under 200 mg/dL—however, your total cholesterol number is not the be-all and end-all benchmark for healthy cholesterol.

Your total cholesterol can be broken down into two component parts: low-density lipoprotein (LDL), high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Which ones are the good and bad cholesterol? LDL is commonly known as bad cholesterol, while HDL is known as good cholesterol.  A simple explanation of the difference between these 2 distinct lipoproteins makes it quite clear why one is more desirable than the other.

Lipoproteins are actually proteins that carry cholesterol, which is a type of molecule that helps, among other things, to build and maintain the structure of the cells in your body. LDLs are tasked with delivering cholesterol through the blood to different parts of your body. As time passes—and particularly when there is an excess of cholesterol in your blood from, say, after prolonged consumption of a diet too high in cholesterol—LDL cholesterol can actually build up on the walls of your blood vessels, becoming what is known as plaque. This plaque, largely caused by too much bad cholesterol in the blood, begins to narrow the essential passageways for your bloodstream, leading to heart disease.

HDL cholesterol, the good kind of cholesterol, on the other hand, travels through the bloodstream picking up surplus cholesterol and delivering it to the liver to be broken down. Once broken down, the cholesterol can leave the body as waste.

This interplay between good and bad cholesterol is what makes for changes in your total cholesterol levels. An ideal total cholesterol count is comprised of at least 60 mg/dL of HDL cholesterol, less than 130 mg/dL of LDL cholesterol. HDL levels of below 40 mg/dL are considered a major risk factor for heart disease. LDL levels between 130 and 190 are considered high and should be monitored, and levels above 190 are considered very high and dangerous.

The American Heart Association recommends that all adults over the age of 20 have their cholesterol levels checked every 4 to 6 year to monitor their risk for heart disease. Talk to your doctor today about where your cholesterol levels are, and whether a heart-healthy Omega-3 supplement like MegaRed that can help support healthy triglyceride levels is right for you.

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