When most people hear the word “cholesterol,” they automatically associate it with negative health problems. But remember, there are two main types of cholesterol: high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). Surprisingly, of these two types of cholesterol, HDL is actually known as the “good cholesterol” because it helps our bodies get rid of excess cholesterol.

HDL, or “good cholesterol” gets rid of extra cholesterol by transporting it to our livers where it can be expelled. For this reason it is less likely to end up in our arteries, unlike LDL which transports cholesterol to our arteries. This is why LDL is thought of as “bad cholesterol.” 

HDL & LDL: The Good & The Bad of Cholesterol
hdl ldl

Too much LDL in our arteries can cause plaque to form, which is known as atherosclerosis.

This plaque buildup can cause blood clots to form.

Blood clots have the potential to block an artery in our hearts or brains which can lead to heart attack or stroke.

Plaque buildup in our arteries can also reduce blood and oxygen flow to the major organs in our bodies which can cause kidney disease or peripheral arterial disease, a circulatory problem that occurs when narrowed arteries reduce the blood flow to our limbs.

If your doctor performs a lipid panel, they will test your blood to determine your levels of both good and bad cholesterol. Generally, it is good to have higher levels of HDLs and lower levels of LDLs. Once you have a lipid panel, your doctor can interpret the results to let you know if you have healthy levels of cholesterol.

Find out the causes of high cholesterol on the following slide.