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Good Cholesterol May Not Be So Good

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There are two types of cholesterol, good high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and bad low-density lipoprotein (LDL). HDL can help prevent the buildup of artery-clogging plaque. The problem with HDL comes from how if there is too much of it, it causes inflammation in the vessel walls.

HDL moves molecules of cholesterol away from vessel walls and other parts of the body to the liver for removal. LDL has the opposite job, which is to carry cholesterol molecules to the vessel wall where they are used by cells to make hormones and construct cell walls. If the HDL is dysfunctional, it may still be carrying cholesterol molecules but it’s either moving them too slowly and doesn’t make it to the destination, or it goes the wrong way.

Scientists have long known that too much LDL can lead to arteries getting clogged. Only recently has the medical community become aware of the dangers of too much HDL. People with a high amount of HDL are more likely to have cardiovascular problems that lead to illness or death.

Cholesterol serves essential functions such as making hormones, repairing cell walls, and clearing blood vessels of plaque. It is not inherently good nor bad, and only about 25% of the cholesterol in your body even comes from food. The types of food that have high amounts of HDL, such as whole grain, olive oil, fatty fish, beans, legumes, nuts and flax, can still be part of a healthy diet.

There is much more that needs to be understood about HDL cholesterol and its effects on the body. In every study of the negative effects of high amounts of HDL, scientists admit that there is still more research that needs to be done. They advise that people refrain from any cholesterol treatment designed to increase HDL levels to fight high LDL levels. People who have received this treatment have not had favorable results and some have developed worsening cardiovascular problems or death. What all scientists will agree upon is that good ways to fight high HDL and high LDL are lifestyle based. Getting plenty of sleep, getting regular exercise, cutting out tobacco products, and refraining from alcohol are all effective ways to keep your heart healthy.

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