What is LDL cholesterol?
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is produced by your liver and makes up part of your total cholesterol level. It’s often called ‘bad cholesterol’ but some LDL cholesterol is essential for your health. If your LDL cholesterol levels are too high it increases your risk of heart disease.
What is its function?
LDL is one of the major forms of lipoproteins — these carry cholesterol through your blood to where it's needed. LDL cholesterol is needed for healthy cell growth. But if your levels become too high it can build up on the walls of your arteries. This narrows your arteries and increases your risk of blood clots.
What can cause it to change?
There are a number of things that can raise your cholesterol to an unhealthy level:
- eating foods high in cholesterol, saturated fats, and trans fats
- lack of exercise
- drinking too much alcohol
- being overweight
- a genetic condition called familial hypercholesterolaemia
If your cholesterol levels become excessively high it's called hyperlipidaemia. Currently, over half of all adults in the UK suffer from raised cholesterol — so it’s worth keeping an eye on your level.
What factors within my control could influence it?
There are lots of ways to lower your LDL cholesterol, including:
- avoiding foods high in cholesterol, saturated fats, and trans fats — for example, butter, margarine, cream, and sausages
- avoiding fast food and fried foods
- eating high-fibre foods, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- eating lean sources of protein, like chicken, fish, and legumes
- eating oily fish, like salmon and mackerel
- exercising regularly — this can help raise your HDL cholesterol and lower your LDL cholesterol
- losing weight if you’re overweight
- avoiding drinking too much alcohol
- not smoking