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Cholesterol - good cholesterol & bad cholesterol

Written by Caidr's team of doctors and pharmacists based in UK | Updated: 02.03.2023 | 2 min read

Lipids are fat compounds found in the body that include cholesterol and triglycerides. They are used for many important functions, but sometimes there is too much of a good thing! Here we dive into a bit more detail on what exactly is good and bad cholesterol.

Cholesterol is a waxy, fatlike substance we all have in our blood, and it’s essential for good health, helping to store energy and with other vital body functions such as creating healthy cell membranes. However, too much of the ‘bad’ kind of cholesterol can increase your risk of conditions such as heart disease or stroke. There are two main ways we make cholesterol – from our body and from what we eat. Body-generated cholesterol is made in our liver and it helps your body build cells and make vitamins and certain hormones. We make all the cholesterol we need through this process. Dietary cholesterol comes from the food we eat, particularly products like meat, eggs, cheese and milk.

HDL is good cholesterol

HDL (high-density lipoprotein ) cholesterol is known as 'good cholesterol' because it carries non-HDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) away from your arteries to be broken down by your liver and eliminated from your body.

LDL (low-density lipoprotein) or non-HDL cholesterol is bad cholesterol

High levels of non-HDL cholesterol and triglycerides can lead to the build-up of fatty deposits in your arteries (atherosclerosis), increasing your risk of developing cardiovascular problems such as coronary heart disease, angina, or a heart attack or stroke.

How about statins?

Statins are a type of medication that reduce the production of'bad cholesterol' (non-HDL cholesterol) from your liver. They can also lower triglyceride levels and increase'good cholesterol' (HDL cholesterol) levels in your body. Statins work by inhibiting an enzyme in your body called HMG-CoA reductase. There are five statins available on prescription in the UK. These are atorvastatin, simvastatin, rosuvastatin, pravastatin, and fluvastatin. Statins are for people who have high levels of non-HDL cholesterol and triglycerides in their blood. Lifestyle factors and genetics can both play a part in this. People with normal lipid levels may also be prescribed a statin if they are at a high risk of developing cardiovascular problems.

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