Cholesterol Home > Bad Cholesterol

"Bad cholesterol" refers to low density lipoprotein (LDL), a substance that transports cholesterol throughout the body. LDL can lead to the buildup of plaque on artery walls, which can eventually clog or block an artery. The more LDL you have in your blood, the greater your risk of heart disease. The best way to lower LDL levels involves making lifestyle changes and possibly taking medication.

What Is "Bad Cholesterol?"

"Bad cholesterol" is a term often used to refer to low density lipoprotein (LDL), a substance found within the body that is used to transport cholesterol to tissues that need it. LDL is also referred to as LDL cholesterol.
 

Understanding Cholesterol and Lipoproteins

Cholesterol is a type of fat that is made in your body, and it is also in some foods that you eat. Your body needs some cholesterol to function properly.
 
To get to all of your cells, cholesterol needs to travel through the bloodstream. However, because cholesterol is a fat, it separates from the blood, similar to the way that oil separates from water.
 
Therefore, proteins form a shell around the cholesterol, making a "cholesterol complex." A protein that is linked to cholesterol to form this complex is called a "lipoprotein." While there are several different types of lipoproteins, two types merit particular attention when considering a person's cholesterol level:
 
  • High density lipoprotein (HDL) -- the "good cholesterol"
  • Low density lipoprotein (LDL) -- the "bad cholesterol."
     
In both good cholesterol and bad cholesterol, the cholesterol is the same; what makes it good or bad is the type of lipoprotein it is inside.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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