Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) are different types of lipoproteins found in the blood. Lipoproteins are a combo of proteins and different types of fats. They transport cholesterol and triglycerides through the bloodstream.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance that’s needed for building cells. In the body, it’s mostly created in your liver through a complex pathway. Triglycerides are another type of fat that’s used to store extra energy in your cells.
The major difference between LDL and VLDL is that they have different amount of the cholesterol, protein, and triglycerides that make up every lipoprotein. LDL contains more cholesterol. VLDL contains more triglycerides.
VLDL and LDL are both seen as “bad” cholesterol. Though your body needs both cholesterol and triglycerides to function, having too much of them can cause them to build up in your arteries. This can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke.
What is LDL?
Some VLDL is cleared in the bloodstream. The rest is transformed into LDL by enzymes in the blood. LDL has less triglycerides and a higher percentage of cholesterol than VLDL. LDL is mostly made up of the components below by weight:
|Main components of LDL||Percentage|
LDL transports cholesterol throughout your body. Too much cholesterol in your body leads to high LDL levels. High LDL levels are also linked with the buildup of plaque in your arteries.
These deposits can gradually lead to atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis happens when deposits of plaque have hardened and narrowed the artery. This increases your risk for having a heart attack and stroke.
Recent guidelines from the American Heart Association now focus on the overall risk for developing heart disease, rather than individual cholesterol results.
Your levels of total cholesterol, LDL, and HDL, along with some other factors, determine which treatment options are best for you.
Seek your doctor’s advise about your cholesterol and how you can lower your risk for heart disease with diet, exercise, lifestyle changes, and medication, if needed.
What is VLDL?
VLDL is created in your liver to transports triglycerides throughout your body. It’s made up of the following components by weight:
|Main components of VLDL||Percentage|
The triglycerides transported by VLDL are used by cells in the body for energy. Consuming more carbohydrates, or sugars, than you burn can lead to excessive amounts of triglycerides and high levels of VLDL in your blood. Extra triglycerides are stored in fat cells and released at a later time when needed for energy.
Elevated levels of triglycerides are linked to the buildup of hard deposits in your arteries. These deposits are known as plaques. Plaque buildup increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. Experts believe this is due to:
- increased inflammation
- increased blood pressure
- changes in the lining of blood vessels
- low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the “good” cholesterol
Testing VLDL and LDL
Many people will only get their LDL level tested during a routine physical exam. LDL is usually tested as part of a cholesterol test.
The American Heart Association recommends all individuals over the age of 20 get their cholesterol checked every four to six years. Cholesterol levels may need to be followed up more frequently if your risk for heart disease is high or to monitor any treatment.
There’s no particular test for VLDL cholesterol. VLDL is usually estimated based on your triglycerides level. Triglycerides are also usually tested with a cholesterol test.
Most doctors don’t do the calculations to find your estimated VLDL level unless you requested for it specifically or have:
- other risk factors for cardiovascular disease
- certain abnormal cholesterol conditions
- early onset heart disease
Risk factors for cardiovascular disease include:
- increased age
- increased weight
- having diabetes or high blood pressure
- having a family history of cardiovascular disease
- lack of regular physical activity
- unhealthy diet (high in animal fat and sugar and low in fruits, vegetables, and fiber)
How to lower VLDL and LDL levels
The techniques for lowering your VLDL and LDL levels are the same: engage in physical exercise and eat a healthy variety of foods.
Quit smoking and decrease alcohol consumption, this is highly beneficial. Your doctor is the best place to begin for recommendations on heart-healthy lifestyle changes tailored for you.
- Avoid saturated fats, which are found in foods like beef, butter, and cheese.
- Exercise at least 30 minutes a day.
- Eat nuts, avocados, steel-cut oatmeal, and fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon and halibut.