You can’t pick up the paper or scan the online headlines without seeing something about cholesterol and heart health. Recent headlines challenged the guidelines and argued more people need statins. If you read my previous article on cholesterol, you’ll know why that’s not the answer.

In this article, I’d like to share with you why why LDL cholesterol is not ‘bad’ and why having your good LDL numbers doesn’t mean you are safe from a heart attack or stroke. Cholesterol levels are not a good predictor of your heart health and in this article, you will begin to see why 75% of hospitalized heart attack victims have ‘normal’ cholesterol and learn about a test that can save your life.

Let’s look at what cholesterol is and how it works and find out why Total Cholesterol and LDL cholesterol numbers will NOT reflect your true heart health risk.

Our cells need fat and cholesterol to function, but fat and cholesterol can’t readily travel through the blood. So the body combines them with protein-covered particles called lipoproteins. Lipoproteins can carry a good amount of fat and travel easily through the blood. There are three types of these particles that are particularly important: low-density lipoproteins (LDL), high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and triglycerides.

Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL)

LDL is responsible for taking the cholesterol from the liver to the body’s cells. Once the lipoprotein reaches the cell, the cell attaches to it and extracts the fat and cholesterol it needs.

High-Density Lipoproteins (HDL)

HDL then takes over and plays clean up, collecting cholesterol from the bloodstream, LDL and artery walls, and transporting it back to the liver to be recycled, an equally important role in healthy cholesterol function.


Triglycerides are a type of lipid that is stored in your fat cells. Whenever you eat any extra calories that aren’t needed, they are converted into triglycerides, It’s easy to see how eating excess calories, especially from nutritionally devoid foods, will be reflected in your higher triglyceride levels. If you need energy between meals, hormones will release them to be burned as fuel as needed. (If that hunger period never arrives because you’re eating constantly that process won’t occur and they will remain awaiting their need.)

Triglycerides are an important part of healthy body function; you can’t live without them. But like most things, it’s about balance; in excess, triglycerides can cause problems. If your triglycerides are high, you typically have a lot of fat in your bloodstream, which means you are either making too much or are not burning it through exercise.

We need all three of these transporters in our bodies in order to function. Scientists have argued that HDL was good, and LDL and Triglycerides were bad: that excessive amounts are problematic and cause heart attacks. We’re going to dig into all of that more deeply in just a moment.

But first, I want to get something out of the way and talk briefly about total cholesterol numbers.  I can’t tell you how many people swear by their total cholesterol number. But total cholesterol is no more than a simple formula: HDL + LDL + Triglycerides. Even if you ascribe to the conventional wisdom that HDL is good and LDL is bad, which we are going to clarify  shortly, looking at total numbers still makes no sense.

If LDL and Triglycerides, the supposed bad guys, stay the same and HDL, the good guy, goes up, then total cholesterol will increase by default. If raising HDL is good for you, which we’ll confirm soon, then closer analysis reveals that the individual is actually better off than before, but yet their total cholesterol number has just gone higher and possibly even moved into a ‘borderline high’ or‘high’ range. This makes no sense whatsoever! You’ve now seen this from a formula standpoint, but next you will see why this is even more important when you understand more about how the cholesterol lipoproteins really work.

We discussed previously that all three components are essential for health. Unfortunately, LDL cholesterol has gotten a bad rap. It has been argued that when there is too much LDL, particles can be deposited in the walls of the arteries of the heart, and elsewhere, limiting blood flow. These deposits, known as plaque, can break apart and cause a heart attack or stroke. Because of this theory, LDL has been called the “bad” cholesterol.

The truth is, there is no good and bad cholesterol. There is only one cholesterol: LDL and HDL are lipoprotein cholesterol carriers and they are both equally necessary for survival and wellness.

While LDL has been labeled bad because it can lead to plaque development, we now know that there are multiple types of LDL. In fact, if you wanted to create labels, you can argue that there is good LDL and bad LDL. Research has shown that LDL particles come in different sizes and that large LDL particles cause no problem.

The small, dense LDL particles, the smallest of which are called very low density lipoproteins, or VLDLs, are troublesome for several reasons. They are tiny enough to squeeze through the lining of the arteries where they can oxidize, or turn rancid, which will cause inflammation. This will begin the process that can ultimately lead to the development of plaque.

If you are concerned about heart health, you absolutely must have your LDL particle number and size tested. Having that information is essential to assessing your heart health. You can have very high LDL cholesterol and be at no risk for a heart incident whatsoever or you can have absolutely ‘normal’ LDL cholesterol and be one of the 75% hospitalized for a heart attack who had ‘normal’ cholesterol at the time of their heart attack.

Simply knowing your LDL number is not helpful and will not reveal your true heart health risk. As Dr. Mark Hyman, President of the Institute for Functional Medicine put it,

“Newer tests look at not only the total amount of cholesterol, but the actual size of the cholesterol particles as well as the total number of cholesterol particles. In my view, this is the only test for cholesterol that should be performed. Using older versions of cholesterol testing leads to practicing medicine with blinders on. It is outdated misleading, and often leads to harmful prescriptions for medications when not indicated, It can also provide a false sense of security when your cholesterol numbers are normal but the type of cholesterol you have is the small dangerous kind.

Studies have found that people with cholesterol level of 300 g/dl but have very large cholesterol particles have very little risk of cardiovascular disease. On the other hand, people with “normal” cholesterol level such as 150 mg/dl but very small and numerous LDL and HDL cholesterol particles have an extremely high risk of heart disease.”

I cover this in great detail in a forthcoming article series on cholesterol and heart health. If you are interested in heart health, you’ll want to ensure you receive the whole series by joining the New England Health Advisory community. It’s free to subscribe at at The information we cover can transform you and your heart health so you can avoid heart attacks, stroke, or unnecessary surgery and live a longer better life.

But for now, talk to your physician or health care provider about getting your LDL particle number and size tested. This test is now being covered by many insurance companies and getting much more attention. Once you know your risk, you can improve your numbers through simple lifestyle changes.

To your wellness and health: your true wealth!


Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal at

Photo Source: Microsoft Clip Art

 Leave a Reply




© 2012 Inger Pols, Inc. Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha