Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or 'bad cholesterol' as it's probably more commonly referred to, tends to be the main area of focus when talking about cholesterol. But this is overly simplistic as it's essential for your health. Find out what LDL cholesterol is and how to improve your levels.
How is LDL cholesterol made?
LDL is produced by your liver and forms part of your total cholesterol.
What does LDL cholesterol do?
LDL cholesterol is the main protein that delivers cholesterol to where it's needed around your body. At the right level, its role is essential for healthy cell growth. But, when there is excess LDL it can cause clogging of the arteries — hence its bad reputation.
How to calculate your LDL cholesterol
When looking to calculate your LDL level think L = Low, you want to have low LDL levels as this means there's less chance of your arteries being blocked.
Ideally LDL levels should be less than 3mmol/L (millimole a litre) for healthy adults and less than 2mmol/L in those who are at higher risk.
You can check your LDL cholesterol levels at home by using a cholesterol blood test.
How to lower your LDL cholesterol
Often changes in diet, good levels of physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight is enough to keep your LDL levels within healthy limits.
Many also believe that limiting saturated fats in your diet plays a role in reducing LDL levels. But recent studies have called this traditional thinking into question.
Ensuring you are eating foods like oily fish, nuts, and vegetables along with having enough fibre in your diet will maintain your general cholesterol levels.
Some diets, like the Mediterranean Diet, have been shown to be very effective for maintaining healthy LDL cholesterol levels.