LDL (low density lipoprotein) is a substance that is used to transport cholesterol from the liver to tissues throughout the body. Unfortunately, it can build up on the walls of your arteries, and is the main source of plaque buildup. The more LDL you have in your blood, the greater your risk of heart disease. Lifestyle changes and cholesterol medication are proven ways to decrease it.
What Is LDL?
Low density lipoprotein, or LDL for short, is a substance found within the body that is used to transport cholesterol to tissues that need it. LDL is also referred to as "bad" cholesterol.
Understanding Cholesterol and Lipoproteins
Cholesterol is a type of 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.
To keep this from happening, proteins form a shell around the cholesterol, making 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. What is interesting is that for 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 inside.
LDL: 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 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. Over time, plaque can cause narrowing or hardening of the arteries, called atherosclerosis.