The Dangers of Bad Cholesterol for the Heart

cholesterol and the heart.jpeg

You may already be aware that heart disease is statistically the greatest threat to your health, and if you are, that’s a great first step to heart health.  However, what you may not realize are just how many controllable factors contribute to cardiovascular disease. While there are certainly some elements that are beyond your control such as age or family history, there are even more that can be controlled with a healthy lifestyle and proper medications.  One such factor is having high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), otherwise known as “bad cholesterol.”

What is Bad Cholesterol?

High cholesterol isn’t necessarily bad; it all depends on which of the two main types of cholesterol is elevated:

HDL (Good Cholesterol) – High-density lipoprotein is considered “good cholesterol,” and higher levels of this type are actually preferable.  HDL works against bad cholesterol, acting as a scavenger to locate it within the arteries and carry it back to the liver.

LDL (Bad Cholesterol) – Low-density lipoprotein is recognized as “bad cholesterol” for its ability to contribute to fatty buildups that narrow the arteries.

Having a good balance between HDL and LDL is essential to keeping the heart and arteries healthy.  In general, HDL levels above 40 and LDL levels below 100 are ideal.


HDL (Good Cholesterol)

LDL (Bad Cholesterol)

Total Cholesterol


40 or higher

Less than 100

Less than 200







160 or higher

240 or higher


Less than 40




How does Bad Cholesterol Affect the Heart?

When the body has too much bad cholesterol and too little good cholesterol, the imbalance can make way for plaque buildup within the arteries.  Over time, and without symptom, this plaque can narrow the arteries and restrict the flow of oxygen rich blood to the heart.  Eventually, this impeded supply of blood and oxygen can lead to problems such as chest pain, and should an artery become blocked entirely, a major cardiovascular event such as a heart attack can result.

How can Bad Cholesterol be Controlled? 

Because high levels of bad cholesterol causes no initial symptoms, it is important to learn what your numbers are through a blood test with your physician.  If your LDL levels are found to be high, there are steps that you can take to lower your cholesterol back into a healthy range and help prevent medical complications.  Your doctor’s recommendations to lower cholesterol may include:

  • Following a heart-healthy diet such as one that eliminates trans fats, reduces saturated fats, and increases soluble fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Increasing physical activity
  • Quitting smoking
  • Losing weight
  • Taking prescription, cholesterol-lowering drugs

While heart disease may represent a big health risk for many Americans, that risk is also significantly lowered with the early detection and treatment of factors such as high cholesterol.  A simple blood test is all it takes to determine your own levels and to begin taking action to keep them in check.  Contact the Cardiovascular Institute of the South location nearest you, and request an appointment with one of our highly-skilled cardiologists to begin taking charge of your own heart health.

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CIS Staff

Written by CIS Staff