LDL Cholesterol

The term "LDL cholesterol" refers to a substance that transports cholesterol from the liver to tissues throughout the body. Too much of this in the blood can lead to plaque buildup on the walls of your arteries, which can cause a blockage. The more LDL you have in your blood, the greater your risk of heart disease. However, it can be lowered through lifestyle changes and medication.

What Is LDL Cholesterol?

LDL cholesterol is another name for low density lipoprotein (LDL). It is a substance found within the body that is used to transport cholesterol to tissues that need it. It is also known as "bad cholesterol."

Understanding Lipoproteins

Cholesterol is a fat that is made in your body. It is also in some foods that you eat. Your body needs some cholesterol to work properly.
In order to get to all of your cells, cholesterol needs to travel through the bloodstream. But because cholesterol is a fat, it separates from the blood similar to the way that oil separates from water.
In order to prevent this from happening, proteins form a shell around the cholesterol, creating a "cholesterol complex." It is then released into the bloodstream and travels to where it needs to go.
A protein that is linked to cholesterol to form this cholesterol complex is called a "lipoprotein." There are several different types of lipoproteins. When talking about cholesterol, though, we normally talk about two types of lipoproteins. One is good and the other can be bad. You have probably heard about "good cholesterol" and "bad cholesterol." However, in both good cholesterol (HDL) and bad cholesterol (LDL), the cholesterol is the same; what makes it good or bad is the type of lipoprotein it is within.

Why Is LDL Cholesterol Known as "The Bad Cholesterol?"

Normally, LDLs transport cholesterol from your liver and deliver it to the tissues that need it. But if you have a lot of LDLs left over after all of your tissues have been taken care of, the LDLs will "let go" of the extra cholesterol while traveling through your blood. This LDL cholesterol can build up on the walls of your arteries (blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to other parts of the body). This buildup of cholesterol is called plaque, and over time, it can cause narrowing or hardening of the arteries. This condition is called atherosclerosis.
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