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Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is also known as “bad” cholesterol. It is part of a blood test called lipid analysis, which checks total cholesterol, HDL and triglycerides. It is usually done to determine your risk of heart disease.
It is important to keep your cholesterol levels within healthy limits. If you have other factors for heart disease, it is especially important to keep LDL within a target range, because LDL can build up inside artery walls and contribute to blockages that may lead to a heart attack. Risk factors for heart disease include diabetes, peripheral vascular disease or a previous heart attack.
Healthy LDL levels fall within the optimal target range, which is less than 100 mg/dL. If you have a history of heart disease, your target range is under 70 mg/dL. Near optimal is between 100 and 129. Levels between 130 and 159 mg/dL are considered borderline high, while over 160 mg/dL is considered high. Over 190 mg/dL is very high.
High levels of LDL can build up in the walls of the arteries, leading them to narrow and become less flexible. If a clot blocks a narrowed artery, you may have a heart attack or stroke.
The lower your LDL, the lower your risk of heart disease. Extremely low levels of LDL may signify malnutrition.
If you need to lower your LDL, begin by including more fiber, fruits, and vegetables and less saturated fats. Exercise and weight loss can help lower LDL. If your levels don’t improve with lifestyle changes, your doctor may recommend medication.