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Cholesterol: Good, Bad, Ugly

For the stigma that revolves around ‘cholesterol,’ I’m amazed at how little I actually knew on the topic. Pre-chiropractic school, the only things I could affiliate with the substance was “bad,” and “Honey Nut Cheerios lowers it.” But, did you know that there are actually different types of cholesterol, and one of the kinds is actually good for you?? Let me explain…


What is it?:

Cholesterol is a type of lipid, or fat, that exists in us (and other animals) to aid in a number of functions. Whether it be assisting our GI system or synthesizing hormones and vitamins, we couldn’t operate well/at all without our fatty friend. Cholesterol is transported throughout the body in what are called lipoproteins. There are two primary types of lipoproteins utilized: HDL and LDL, which are both synonymously referred to as cholesterol. HDL is referred to as the “good cholesterol” while LDL has become an aka for “bad cholesterol.”


The Good:

HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is a cholesterol that is greatly desired for daily processes. HDL takes cholesterol that would normally clog your arteries and transports it to the liver where it is further broken down. Most people should desire to raise their HDL.


The Bad:

LDL (low-density lipoprotein) takes cholesterol directly to your arteries, where a buildup of plaque can occur. If this occurs often enough, the plaque can clump together and break off becoming a major deterrent to blood flow in subsequent vessels. Decreasing LDL will benefit us in both the short- and long-terms.


The Ugly:

When blood flow is disrupted by a clot, there is risk of a heart attack, a stroke, or Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD). The consumption of excess high fat meats and dairies, smoking, and not moving your body goes so much deeper than the external aesthetics. Consuming too much too much LDL and not enough HDL could quite literally be killing you.


It is important to therefore:

1)      Know the cholesterol numbers that you should be hitting/avoiding.

  1. HDL: >60 mg/dL
  2. LDL: <100 mg/dL
  3. Total cholesterol: <200 mg/dL
  4. Triglycerides (fatty acids): >150 mg/dL

*These numbers can fluctuate considerably if you are already in a high cholesterol state or have had previous heart attacks or strokes.

**You can be tested at almost any local pharmacy/clinic for fairly cheap.


2)      Know and avoid risk factors that very directly contribute to your cholesterol count.

  1. Obese
  2. Sedentary lifestyle
  3. Full-fat dairy consumption
  4. Smoking
  5. Red meats
  6. Large waist circumference

*Avoiding the known risk factors can both lower LDL while simultaneously raising one’s HDL.


Was this article helpful in understanding a buzz work in the nutrition world? What other topics, in the nutrition world, would you like to hear more about?


Until next time,

Brock Baumgarn CA, Nutrition Consultant: Health 1st Chiropractic & Wellness



-McDermott, A. (2018, September 18). HDL vs. LDL Cholesterol: What’s the Difference? Healthline.

-Nightingale, L. (2021). CVD Nutrition, SP21 wo pics.

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