Good and Bad Cholesterol – The Difference

Mehak Shah

May 9, 2023

Which cholesterol is “good” or “bad” for one’s health, and how can people tell? Every cell in the body has cholesterol, a waxy molecule. Although it is essential for healthy physiological functioning, an excessive amount of cholesterol can cause artery plaque to build.

In addition, research indicates that it may lead to heart disease, stroke, and other issues. Therefore, lifestyle adjustments, such as eating a balanced diet and exercising frequently, are necessary to maintain a healthy cholesterol level. However, in some cases, you may need medication.

Heart disease and stroke, the two top causes of mortality in the US, are more likely to happen by having excessive cholesterol. Moreover, half of those with high cholesterol also take medication to lower their cholesterol.

Therefore, it’s critical to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. But how many different forms of cholesterol are there? And what kind of cholesterol and at what level should it keep you healthy?

Continue reading to learn all there is to know about “good” and “bad” cholesterol.

Cholesterol: An Overview

Cholesterol, a waxy, fatty molecule, is necessary for most vital biological processes. Although your liver produces all the cholesterol your body needs, you also get it by eating red meat and dairy products.

It aids in the synthesis of testosterone and oestrogen as well as vitamin D. Additionally, it aids in food digestion and stabilises the outer membranes of the body’s cells.

Contrarily, those with high blood cholesterol levels are more likely to develop coronary artery disease. High cholesterol may result from a high-fat diet, but your genes, age, gender, lifestyle, and whether you smoke all impact your cholesterol levels.

There are two primary forms of cholesterol include:

  • LDL (low-density lipoprotein), sometimes known as “bad” cholesterol, and 
  • HDL (high-density lipoprotein), also known as “good” cholesterol 

And together, HDL and LDL are vital components in maintaining the body’s cholesterol balance. So let’s find out how these two types of cholesterol impact the total level of cholesterol: 

How does “BAD” Cholesterol differ from “GOOD” Cholesterol?

Lipoproteins transport triglycerides and cholesterol from the blood to body cells via proteins. LDL, the “bad” cholesterol that clogs arteries, is flushed out by HDL, the “good” cholesterol. A gene results in elevated artery-narrowing lipoprotein (a)b, often known as LP(a). 

There are five main categories of circulating lipoproteins, each having unique lipid and protein compositions. They are chylomicrons, low-density lipoproteins (LDL), very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL), intermediate-density lipoproteins (IDL), and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). Therefore, only a blood test for lipids can determine lipoprotein levels.

“GOOD” Cholesterol vs “BAD” Cholesterol

“GOOD” Cholesterol

High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is known as “good” cholesterol or “healthy” cholesterol because it contains less fat and more protein than other types of cholesterol.

Reads more: HDL Cholesterol – Boost Your ‘Good’ Cholesterol Levels

Additionally, HDL cholesterol is very dense, which is why it is called high-density lipoprotein. One of the five significant lipoproteins, HDL cholesterol, transports around 25% of the body’s cholesterol.

Its primary function is to bring cholesterol back to your liver from other body parts. The liver then eliminates excess cholesterol from the blood vessels and helps protect the arterial walls against LDL cholesterol.

Because of the high correlation between blood cholesterol levels and atherosclerosis, high ratios of HDL to cholesterol correlate well with preventing heart attacks and strokes.

Research suggests HDL levels below 40 mg/dL significantly increase your chance of developing heart disease. Therefore, healthcare experts advise maintaining higher HDL levels. On the other hand, most heart problems result from high LDL levels. Consequently, it is necessary to have a low-cholesterol diet.

“BAD” Cholesterol 

The plasma’s VLDL and ILD are the precursors of low-density lipoproteins, which are rich in cholesteryl esters and cholesterol. LDL’s primary purpose is to transport these two forms of cholesterol to peripheral tissues. LDL also acts as a precursor for the synthesis of bile acids. As a result, LDL gets linked to around 2/3 rd. of the cholesterol.

Read more: LDL Cholesterol – What It Is & How to Lower It

Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are frequently referred to as “bad” cholesterol since an excessive amount travels through blood vessels and causes cholesterol to build up on the sides of the arteries. Eventually, this accumulation, or “plaque,” in your arteries may cause those vessels to become more constricted.

This artery-clogging condition is known as atherosclerosis. It causes cardiac artery narrowing and raises the possibility of developing other medical conditions. Due to this, you may become more susceptible to peripheral artery disease, a stroke, or a heart attack. 

Evidence shows people who eat meals with saturated fat-rich diets, such as red meat and full-fat dairy, may experience elevated LDL levels.

Most people fall within 100 mg/dL, the ideal LDL level.

Cholesterol Level Chart

Research indicates that the best way to measure cholesterol is with a blood test called a “lipid panel” or “lipid profile.” The test results can help determine whether you have a higher risk for heart disease. Several experts believe that adults should have a total cholesterol level below 200 mg/dL, which is the sum of two types of fat: cholesterol, both “bad” cholesterol and “good” cholesterol. 

The data given below illustrates optimal to high cholesterol levels. Most people should be at these levels. The results for each measurement are given in mg/dL.

The Classification and Level of Total Cholesterol

  • Less than 200 mg/dL: Desirable
  • 200-239 mg/dL: Borderline high
  • 240 mg/dL and higher: High

Classification and Level of “BAD” Cholesterol (LDL)

  • Lower than 100 mg/dL: desirable (healthiest for you)
  • 100-129 mg/dL: Close to optimal
  • 130-159 mg/dL: Somewhat excessive
  • 160-189 mg/dL: High
  • 190 mg/dL and higher: Extreme High

Classification and Level of “GOOD” Cholesterol (HDL)

  • 60 mg/dL and above: Healthy
  • Between 40 and 59 mg/dL: the greater, the better
  • Less than 40 mg/dL: A serious risk factor for coronary artery disease 

The HDL level represents the significant difference between the cholesterol levels of men and women. Women often have higher HDL levels than males do. The desirable HDL level is at least 40 mg/dL for men and 50 mg/dL for women.

The HealthifyMe Note

The experts at HealthifyMe advise that people with cardiovascular disease should get their cholesterol levels evaluated at least every five years. In addition, experts recommend people over 45 should check their cholesterol levels more frequently, particularly if they have lipid problems. Therefore, people should check and maintain their total cholesterol levels under 200 mg/dL, HDL cholesterol levels of at least 60 mg/dL, and LDL cholesterol levels of under 100 mg/dL to maintain a healthy lifestyle and prevent future issues.

Monitoring Cholesterol Levels: The Significance

Many factors can affect your cholesterol level. For example, your blood cholesterol level will rise if you eat foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol.

Trans fat also affects how your cholesterol will change if you consume these substances. High cholesterol can also result from a poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle, or insufficient exercise.

It causes weight gain, which increases LDL cholesterol levels and lowers HDL levels, increasing total body cholesterol. Moreover, being aware of your cholesterol level will be beneficial in creating the best health plan for you. But the most important thing is finding the most effective strategy that works best for you.

The chore of monitoring your cholesterol levels and overall health status has become time-consuming and tricky due to today’s fast-paced lifestyle and consistent work schedule. If that’s the case, you have a few options here.

Monitoring and Managing Cholesterol like a Pro

HealthifyMe is a comprehensive app for monitoring fitness and health. It offers a range of services that can help you clarify what food options are accessible based on your cholesterol level and other risk factors.

Some of the services provided by these services include personal training, diet plans, and food and activity trackers that sync effortlessly with other fitness equipment and your phone. In addition, HealthifyMe, an app with more than 25 million members, creates reliable eating schedules and wellness plans based on your continuing medical constraints.

Having comprehensive and ongoing support might be beneficial when trying to lower your cholesterol. For example, the BIOS from HealthifyPRO 2.0, a wearable CGM device, is a great way to keep track of your carbohydrate intake. Features like Continuous Glucose Monitoring are one of HealthifyPro’s five steps to a healthy metabolism.

You can also get real-time dietary advice from nutritionists to point you in the direction of healthy eating and exercise are part of this approach. Then, within a few days, your nutritionist gains insight into how a particular person responds to certain foods.

Consider using the HealthifyMe app to check your metabolic health if you haven’t been feeling well lately or gained a few pounds. The distinctive features of HealthifyMe can assist you in maintaining normal cholesterol levels and helping to improve your metabolic health.

To help you maintain good cholesterol levels, HealthifyMe offers real-time, personalised nutrition counselling from an in-house nutritionist. Users with iOS and Android devices can access HealthifyMe. Additionally, you will have access to one-on-one conversations with RIA, the interactive AI that continuously scans, examines, and provides insights about your overall health.

Once you implement the healthy diet, engage in regular exercise, and cholesterol-lowering strategies advised by HealthifyPRO 2.0 coaches, using the smart scale and repeat metabolic panel testing, you experience improvement of markers over a few months. 


Since high cholesterol rarely results in symptoms, you might not even be aware that you have it. However, you may detect it through routine blood tests. You might get corneal arcs—white, grey, or green rings that encircle the corneas of your eyes if your LDL levels are high.

Your chances of developing diseases, including coronary artery disease, peripheral artery disease, stroke, and atherosclerosis, can increase if you have high levels of cholesterol (the accumulation of plaque throughout the body).

Moreover, severe heart conditions such as angina and cardiac arrest may also result. Some individuals could require medication or surgery due to long-term problems from high cholesterol.

About the Author

Mehak holds masters in foods and nutrition from Amity university, Noida. She has a keen interest in public health and nutrition and has been in charge of various projects with milestone NGO. She has worked with people over the globe to bring out the changes in their lives and has always been working towards lifestyle modifications via good dietary practices. According to her a healthy lifestyle is not about the destination but all about the journey.

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