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Cholesterol and lipids 101 - good cholesterol & bad cholesterol

Written by Healthwords's team of doctors and pharmacists based in UK | Updated: 27.02.2023 | 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.

Lipids and fats

Lipids and fats are a vital part of a balanced diet. They are used as a store of energy, and in vital body functions such as creating cell membranes.

HDL is good cholesterol

HDL cholesterol is classed 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 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 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 seven statins available on prescription in the US. These are atorvastatin, simvastatin, rosuvastatin, pravastatin, lovastatin, pitavastatin, 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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