Editor’s letter: Your heart health dictionary

Understanding more about heart health.

When you read about heart health, the information can be confusing. (Is cholesterol good or bad?) So here are a few terms you may often hear and why they are so important to the health of your heart:

  • LDL (bad) cholesterol is found in your blood and contributes to plaque, a thick, hard deposit that builds up on the walls of your arteries and makes them less flexible (called atherosclerosis). If arteries become blocked, then you could have a heart attack or stroke. While high cholesterol can be genetic, diet plays a major role. Saturated fats and trans-fatty acids (trans fats) can raise your LDL cholesterol and lower your HDL cholesterol.
  •  HDL (good) cholesterol is also found in your blood, and it helps remove LDL cholesterol from the arteries – acting like a scavenger to carry LDL cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver. Once in the liver, it is broken down and passed out of the body. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids are good choices for improving your LDL cholesterol.
  • Triglycerides are another type of fat found in your blood, and your body uses them for energy. When you eat, your body turns any calories it doesn’t need to use right away into triglycerides. While you need some triglycerides, high levels in your blood can cause atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and raise your risk of having a stroke. Elevated triglycerides can be caused by being overweight or obese, not exercising enough, smoking cigarettes, drinking too much alcohol and eating too many carbs (meaning more than 60% of your total calories come from carbs).

In honor of Heart Month, we’ve got even more information to help you keep your heart in great shape. Get the latest heart news, including seven ways to keep yours healthy. Discover the best foods for your ticker, including five ways to enjoy pomegranates. Plus, check out our story on urban rebounding to see if this trampoline trend is a good way to help you (and your heart) stay fit.

Here’s to taking good care of your heart – so that your heart can take care of you for a lifetime.


American Heart Association