VLDL and LDL are both two different types of lipoproteins that are commonly found in our blood. LDL means low-density lipoprotein and VLDL means very low-density lipoprotein. Lipoproteins are a combination of different types of fats and proteins that carry triglycerides and cholesterol through the blood. There are many differences between VLDL and LDL. While both types are believed to be forms of ‘bad’ cholesterol, your body still needs them in just the right levels. We take a look at the major differences between VLDL and LDL.
VLDL versus LDL: Differences Based on Definition
VLDL, very low-density lipoprotein, is manufactured in your liver for transporting triglycerides throughout the body. VLDL is made up of:
- Cholesterol: 10%
- Triglycerides: 70%
- Proteins: 10%
- Other fats: 10%
VLDL carries the triglycerides that are used by the body for generating energy. When you eat more sugars or carbohydrates, then it can cause excessive levels of triglycerides along with high levels of VLDL to build up in your blood. The extra amount of triglycerides get stored in the body’s fat cells and are released at a later time when it is needed for energy.
High levels of triglycerides are known to eventually accumulate in your arteries and form hard deposits known as plaques. Over a period of time, buildup of plaque causes a dramatic increase in your risk for developing a stroke and heart disease due to the following factors:
- Plaque buildup increases inflammation
- It increases your blood pressure
- It brings about changes in the lining of the blood vessels
- It also lowers the levels of high-density lipoprotein, the ‘good’ cholesterol in your body.
- At the same time, high triglyceride levels are also linked with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and metabolic syndrome.
Some of the VLDL gets cleared while in the blood. The remainder gets transformed into LDL by the enzymes present in the bloodstream. LDL has lower levels of triglycerides, but a higher percentage of cholesterol as compared to VLDL. LDL is primarily made up of the following by percentage in weight:
- Cholesterol: 26%
- Proteins: 25%
- Triglycerides: 10%
- Other fats: 15%
LDL is responsible for transporting cholesterol throughout the body. When there is too much cholesterol present in the body, it causes the levels of LDL to increase. High levels of LDL is directly linked to the buildup of plaques in the arteries, the risks of which are discussed above. Plaque deposits are known to ultimately cause atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis happens when deposits of plaque start to harden, narrowing the blood vessel. This significantly increases the risk of having a stroke and a heart attack.
According to the most recent guidelines provided by the American Heart Association, one needs to focus on the overall risk of developing heart disease, instead of the individual cholesterol results.
It is now believed that the levels of total cholesterol, HDL, and LDL cholesterol, combined with several other factors, are only used to determine the best treatment option for you.
VLDL versus LDL: Testing Procedures
LDL levels generally get tested during any routine physical examination and as part of a regular cholesterol test as well.
According to the recommendations of the American Heart Association, anybody over the age of 20 should get a cholesterol test done once in every four to five years.
Cholesterol levels may need to be checked more frequently if you are aware that you are at high risk for developing cardiovascular conditions, or if any treatment is ongoing and has to be monitored.
When it comes to testing for VLDL, there is no specific test available for checking the levels of VLDL cholesterol. Levels of VLDL cholesterol is generally estimated based on the level of triglycerides. Triglycerides are also checked with a cholesterol test itself.
Most doctors, however, do not do the calculations for finding the VLDL levels unless you specifically request for it, or if you have the following:
- Early onset of heart disease
- Some abnormal cholesterol conditions
- Any other risk factors that can lead to cardiovascular disease
These risk factors for cardiovascular disease may include:
- Having a family history of heart disease
- Increased weight
- Increased age
- Having high blood pressure or hypertension
- Having diabetes
- Having a sedentary lifestyle
- Lack of regular exercise or physical activity
- An unhealthy diet that is high in animal fat and sugar, and low in fruits, vegetables, and fiber
Key Difference Between VLDL and LDL
The primary difference between VLDL and LDL is that they are both made up of different percentages of cholesterol, triglycerides, proteins, and other fats. Each of these lipoproteins has a different composition depending on how much percentage of each factor is present. While VLDL contains more triglycerides, LDL contains more percentage of cholesterol.
Successfully Lowering the Levels of VLDL and LDL
There are many strategies you can follow to lower the levels of VLDL and LDL, and the same strategies will work for lowering both the levels of VLDL and LDL. You should follow a healthy diet, including a lot of regular physical exercise in your routine, and maintain an overall healthy lifestyle. Try to exercise for at least half an hour each day and avoid the intake of saturated fats which are primarily found in foods like cheese, butter, and beef. At the same time, you should increase your consumption of nuts, steel-cut oatmeal, avocadoes, and fatty fish such as salmon and halibut. Fatty fish such as these are powerhouses of omega-3 fatty acids, which will benefit your health significantly.
If you are a smoker, then quit smoking and also reduce your alcohol consumption. Quitting smoking will also decrease your risk of developing many chronic lifestyle diseases such as heart disease and other lung-related conditions.
This will also help in lowering the levels of VLDL and LDL.
The best thing you can do is to discuss a plan with your doctor, who will provide the correct recommendations for maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle that will help you not only lower your cholesterol levels, but it will also be good for your overall health.