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Everything You Wanted to Know About LDL Cholesterol

Addressing Your High LDL Levels Now Can Help Lower Your Heart Disease Risk


Updated December 22, 2009

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Low density lipoprotein, also known as LDL or “bad” cholesterol, serves as the main transporter of cholesterol in the bloodstream. It is primarily responsible for carrying cholesterol to the body’s cells.

LDL comes from two sources: Your liver and the foods you eat (specifically, fat and cholesterol in your diet).

Regardless of how you develop high cholesterol levels, having high LDL cholesterol can place you at risk for heart disease.

1. There Are Different Forms of LDL Cholesterol

While you know that LDL is classified as the “bad” cholesterol, you may not know that there are different types of LDL circulating in the blood.

Oxidized LDL and small, dense LDL are two types of LDL that are slightly more dangerous than others. When present in the blood, they can irritate the linings of vessels, contributing to inflammation that could lead to the formation of plaques within arteries.

There are certain things that increase your chances of having high oxidized LDL or small, dense LDL cholesterol levels, including eating trans fats and having poorly controlled diabetes. Read more how these forms of LDL may increase your risk of heart disease:

2. Your LDL Cholesterol Should Be in a Specific Range

Everyone has an LDL goal, a certain range that your LDL cholesterol levels should be in, that is determined by whether or not you have heart disease or any risk factors for it. Depending on how far you are from your LDL goal, your healthcare provider will decide whether or not you should use diet or medication to lower your cholesterol levels so that you can reach your LDL goal.

Do you know what your LDL goal is? It is a good number to know, since this can help you to determine whether or not you are at risk for heart disease. Speak to your doctor about it.

3. There Are Many Causes of High LDL

You’ve gotten your results from your cholesterol test, and the word is that your LDL cholesterol levels are high. Once you have gotten over that initial jolt of bad news, now you have the daunting task of figuring out what is causing your LDL cholesterol to be high. Start by answering these 7 questions.

4. There Are Ways to Lower Your LDL

Keeping your LDL cholesterol levels within normal range can help you lower your risk. There are many ways you can lower your LDL, ranging from maintaining a healthy lifestyle to taking cholesterol-lowering medications.

Your healthcare provider will assess what is needed to lower your level by examining your overall health and the risk factors you have for heart disease.

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