Written by Ada’s Medical Knowledge Team
You may already know that lowering cholesterol is vital for maintaining a healthy heart and blood vessels. But did you know that there are different types of cholesterol? And that not every type of cholesterol leads to health problems?
Introducing LDL cholesterol. This is the type your doctor refers to when they talk about the importance of lowering your cholesterol levels.But what exactly is LDL cholesterol, and what makes it "bad?” And what do you need to do to decrease your LDL cholesterol levels?
Let's find out.
What is LDL or LDL cholesterol?
Your body needs a certain amount of cholesterol to function normally.
Your liver produces molecules called lipoproteins to transport that cholesterol around the body. 1 These particles consist of fats and proteins that bind to cholesterol so your blood can transport it around your body. 2
Your liver produces 2 main types of lipoprotein: 1
- High-density lipoproteins (HDLs), or "good cholesterol"
- Low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), or "bad cholesterol"
Having too much LDL cholesterol can lead to a variety of health problems. But what is it that makes LDL cholesterol "bad"?
Why is LDL cholesterol “bad”?
When your LDL cholesterol levels get too high, fatty buildups begin to form in the walls of your arteries. 3 Eventually, these buildups turn to plaques, narrowing your arteries and making it difficult for blood to flow through. 4
- Heart attack
- Chronic kidney disease
- Coronary artery disease
- Peripheral artery disease
- High blood pressure
That said, your body does need a small amount of LDL cholesterol for cell repair. 6
So what is the right amount of LDL cholesterol?
What is the normal LDL cholesterol range?
A healthy LDL cholesterol range is anything from below 100 to 129 mg per deciliter of blood, or mg/dL. 7 The target level should be 50-70 mg/dL to prevent plaque formation in your arteries. 7 The risk of plaque buildup is increased by diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, or a pre-existing atherosclerosis.
You should regularly check your LDL cholesterol levels. Ask your doctor about getting a lipid profile test at your next checkup.
Reducing your LDL cholesterol levels is linked to reduced cardiovascular risk. So what can you do to lower your levels?
How to lower LDL cholesterol?
The best way to reduce your LDL cholesterol levels is by making healthy lifestyle choices. 8
This can include: 8
- Eating a balanced diet
- Losing weight
- Exercising regularly
- Avoiding or quitting smoking
- Reducing alcohol consumption
There are also medications your doctor can prescribe to help lower your LDL cholesterol levels if they are too high.
Maintaining healthy, low levels of LDL cholesterol is important for your health.So remember to stay active, eat healthy foods, and regularly check your blood cholesterol levels. Be sure to read our “How to lower cholesterol” article to get the full story on cholesterol.
LDL Cholesterol FAQs
Q: When should I test my LDL cholesterol levels?
A: LDL cholesterol levels are measured as part of a lipid profile test. This should be done every 4-6 years.
Q: Can I feel it when my LDL levels get too high?
A: You won’t experience symptoms if your LDL cholesterol levels get too high. That’s why it’s essential to get your levels checked regularly.
Q: Can I test my LDL cholesterol at home?
A: Your doctor can measure your LDL cholesterol levels as part of a lipid profile test. You can also check them yourself at home using a finger-prick test.
Q: Do I need to fast before an LDL cholesterol test?
A: Your doctor may advise you to fast for 10-12 hours before a cholesterol level test. That means avoiding any food or drink except water.