Cholesterol By Heather Wheeler

Why is Cholesterol Important?

  • It makes up the parts of the cell membrane and organelle membranes
  • It helps create bile in the liver to help digest foods properly to prevent blockage of arteries
  • Aides in the production of steroid hormones which preform other important duties in the body
  • Enables learning and memory
  • Can be converted into Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight

HDL and LDL: What are they and how are they different?

LDL is a lipoprotein that is responsible for the transportation of cholesterol to the cells and stands for low-density lipoprotein.

HDL is lipoprotein that is responsible for removing excess cholesterol from the blood stream aadn transporting it to the liver. HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein.

LDL and HDL are different both structurally and functionally. LDL transports cholesterol to the cells while HDL removes the excess from the blood stream and moves it to the liver. HDL is the smallest and densest lipoprotein. It contains a low amount of lipids in relation to its protein content, making it more small and dense. LDL however, is roughly twice the size of HDL and has a lower density because it contains a higher amount of lipids in relation to its protein amount.

The higher the lipid-protein ratio, the less dense a lipoprotein is.

There is no worse one out of the two. Although LDL gets talk about more as being the "bad" one, they are both needed in the body. If too little HDL or too much LDL is present, then that is bad but they are not bad in general.

High LDL levels can lead to blockage of arteries and low HDL levels mean that the arteries are not getting unblocked. SO the buildup of plaques in the arteries that causes the arteries to be blocked or narrowed can lead to heart disease.

The Effects of Unsaturated, Saturated and Trans Fat on Cholesterol Levels:

Saturated and trans fat can increase LDL levels which is not good, so saturated and trans fats should be limited in the diet. High amounts of trans fat can lead to blockage of arteries which can lead to more serious conditions like heart disease. Therefore, the percent of calories in a diet from saturated and trans fat should be limited and unsaturated fats should be the main source of lipids in the diet.

Cholesterol Testing:

Why are the levels being monitored?

Cholesterol testing can help to determine a person's risk of the buildup of plaques in arteries which can lead to blocked or narrowed arteries throughout the body. High cholesterol has no signs or symptoms, so cholesterol testing is needed to determine a person's cholesterol levels. High LDL levels and low HDL levels are a risk factor of heart disease because that can cause blocked or narrowed arteries. Cholesterol testing can provide a physician with a patient's LDL and HDL levels and help them to figure out if there cholesterol levels are too high.

What is being measured?

  • Total cholesterol: The sum of the body's cholesterol levels
  • HDL cholesterol: Removes excess cholesterol from blood stream and moves it to the liver
  • LDL cholesterol: Transports cholesterol to the cells and can cause buildup of plaque in arteries
  • Triglycerides: Type of fat in blood, high levels of triglycerides are associated with heart disease and plaque buildup

Meaning of Results and How to Interpret Them

Total cholesterol level results show if the amount of cholesterol in the body is too high, borderline high or optimal. 240 mg/dL is considered high, 200-239 mg/dL is considered borderline high and 200 mg/dL or below is considered to be the optimal total cholesterol level.

LDL results can be interpreted differently depending on whether diabetes or heart disease is present. 190 mg/dL is considered very high for everyone, 100-129 mg/dL is considered near optimal for people without heart disease buy is considered high for those with heart disease and 70 mg/dL or below is considered best for people with heart disease of diabetes. Overall, the lower a person's LDL levels are, the better it is because high levels of LDL can lead to a buildup of plaque in arteries.

HDL results are interpreted in the opposite way of LDL levels. Having high HDL levels is the best option, which is typically considered to be 60 mg/dL or higher. Lower levels of HDL are considered to be poor or slightly better because it is not being able to do its job as well when lower levels are present.

Triglyceride levels like LDL levels should be lower. The lower the the number the better. 150 mg/dL or less is the most desirable amount of triglycerides that should be present.

How can a patient change LDL and HDL levels:

A patient can make lifestyle changes such as exercising more, eating a healthier, more well balanced diet and quitting smoking. In a person's diet, they should make sure to limit saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol intake and the percentages that they make up in the calories. Omega 3 fatty acids would be another good part of a diet because they can help to raise HDL levels and lower LDL levels. Exercise is also helpful change that can change LDL and HDL levels. Exercising more can help lower LDL levels and raise HDL levels. If lifestyle changes do not lower the patient's cholesterol levels enough then cholesterol-lowering medication can be taken to alter the HDL and LDL levels in the patient's body.


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Mayo Clinic Staff Print. (2016, January 12). Cholesterol Test Overview. Retrieved March 21, 2017, from

Paula, E. (2013, March 16). What Increases HDL & Lowers LDL? Retrieved March 21, 2017, from

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