What Is LDL?

LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein and is a type of lipoprotein which transports cholesterol in the blood. LDL carries cholesterol from the liver to the tissues and is often referred to as “bad cholesterol”. If there is too much bad cholesterol in circulation it can be deposited on the artery walls forming plaques. These plaques can cause the artery to become narrow or blocked increasing the risk of health problems such cardiovascular disease.[1]

What Role Does it Play in The Body?

Cholesterol has three main functions in the body:

  • It is a structural component in the membranes of cells
  • Helps to make steroid hormones and vitamin D
  • Helps digestion and absorption of fats in the diet by producing bile acids

The body’s supply of cholesterol is made in the liver but can also be ingested from food sources such as meat, eggs and dairy products. Cholesterol travels around the body as a component of lipoproteins. The lower the density of the lipoprotein, the higher the amount of fat present within it. Therefore, LDL contains a high amount of fat. LDL’s principal role is to transport the cholesterol made in the liver to the tissues in the body where it can be used up. However, high plasma cholesterol levels mean it accumulates within the blood vessels.[2]

How Does LDL Affect My Wellbeing?

High levels of LDL can increase the risk of heart disease or diabetes. The build-up of cholesterol on artery walls can lead to the restriction of blood flow to vital organs such as your heart and brain. The higher your cholesterol level gets the greater risk you are at developing coronary heart disease and angina, symptoms include:

  • Angina (chest pain)
  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure

Higher cholesterol also puts you at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This is where the body does not produce enough insulin, or the cells are unable to react to the insulin it does produce and so causes high blood glucose levels. Some of the symptoms associated with diabetes include:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Needing to pee more often
  • Weight loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Itching around the genital area
  • Slow healing of cuts[3]

How Can I Improve My Result?

A healthy lifestyle is a good way to keep your cholesterol levels under control. Exercise is a good way to increase your high-density lipoprotein(HDL) levels which we need to remove the bad cholesterol from the blood. Giving up smoking, increasing your unsaturated fat intake and lowering your alcohol consumption can all help to reduce your LDL level.

Diet

You should try to incorporate more unsaturated fats into your diet. This type of fat is good for you and helps to reduce cholesterol levels. Some foods which are naturally high in unsaturated fats are:

  • Vegetable, nut and seed oils
  • Nuts
  • Oily fish
  • Avocado

If you need to snack, fill up on fruit and vegetables which are low in fat and full of nutrients. Keep your alcohol consumption low and within the recommended guidelines.

Exercise

Exercise is key to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels. You should exercise for at least 30 minutes per day, 5 times weekly to maintain a healthy lifestyle and reduce cholesterol levels.[4]


[1] Lab Tests Online UK. (2016). LDL Cholesterol. Available at: https://labtestsonline.org/tests/ldl-cholesterol

[2] Heart UK. (2018). Cholesterol and Lipoproteins. Available at: https://heartuk.org.uk/images/uploads/healthylivingpdfs/HUKcfs_A_Cholesterol_and_Lipoproteins.pdf

[3] National Health Service. (2016). Diabetes. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/diabetes/

[4] Mann, S., Beedie, C and Jimenez, A. (2013). Differential Effects of Aerobic Exercise, Resistance Training and Combined Exercise Modalities on Cholesterol and the Lipid Profile: Review, Synthesis and Recommendations. Sports Med: 44, pp 211-221.