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Cholesterol: What's the Difference Between HDL and LDL?

Cholesterol: What's the Difference Between HDL and LDL?

When it comes to keeping your cholesterol healthy, you’ve no doubt heard you need to keep your cholesterol levels low. High cholesterol is, in fact, dangerous to your health, but the different types of cholesterol aren’t all created equal.

To achieve ideal cholesterol levels, the key is to keep your LDL, or “bad cholesterol,” levels low, while you keep your HDL, or “good cholesterol,” levels high. Thomas Nguyen, MD, a board-certified internal medicine doctor of Nguyen Medical Group in Boynton Beach, Florida, explains the differences between HDL and LDL, and how to manage your cholesterol.

Understanding cholesterol

Cholesterol is a substance that naturally occurs in your blood. Having this substance is important to staying healthy, as it helps with various bodily functions, including digestion of fat and hormonal production.

Your body produces the levels of cholesterol it needs, but some lifestyle factors can cause your cholesterol to become elevated. When this happens, cholesterol can develop into plaques and cause bloodstream blockages that limit the flow of oxygen and blood.

Excess cholesterol puts you at risk for a number of serious health conditions. These include heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, blood clots, and diabetes.

Key differences between HDL and LDL

Your body produces two different kinds of cholesterol, HDL and LDL. You can remember them by thinking of HDL as “good cholesterol” and LDL as “bad cholesterol.”


LDL moves cholesterol toward your arteries. This type of cholesterol is known as “bad cholesterol” because it causes blockages in your arteries when too much is present in your body.

Ideally, you want your LDL numbers to be low so the small numbers of LDL naturally present in your body do their job without causing blockages. 


The “good cholesterol” HDL moves LDL to your liver and away from the arteries. Because of its important role in your arterial health, you want to have higher numbers of HDL than LDL present in your body.

When determining if your cholesterol levels are healthy, our clinicians measure your LDL and HDL, as having too low levels of HDL puts you at risk, just like having high LDLs. Healthy cholesterol levels mean you have 60 mg/dl minimum of HDLs and under 100 mg/dl of LDLs.

Keeping your cholesterol levels healthy

If your LDL levels are too high or your HDL levels are too low, the good news is, lifestyle changes go a long way in reversing the problem. Our team develops a customized lifestyle plan while monitoring your cholesterol.

Lifestyle changes that support healthy cholesterol include eating a healthy diet, living an active lifestyle, losing weight if you are overweight, and getting regular exams and cholesterol checks from our team. If you smoke or chew tobacco, quitting also lowers your cholesterol.

If you have elevated LDL cholesterol and lifestyle changes aren’t bringing them down enough, our team might also prescribe medication that lowers cholesterol.

You usually don’t have any symptoms when you have high cholesterol, so getting your levels checked regularly is important. Book online or call 561-203-6295 to schedule an appointment at Nguyen Medical Group

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