VLDL cholesterol is a type of “bad” cholesterol that makes up part of your total blood cholesterol profile. VLDL is an abbreviation that stands for very low-density lipoprotein and when your blood shows elevated levels of VLDL cholesterol you may be at greater risk of coronary heart disease.
Lipoproteins are substances in your body that help transport types of fat such as triglycerides and cholesterol throughout your body. Lipoproteins use the blood as their transportation waterway.
If you have ever mixed oil and water together you noticed that the two substances do not mix.
The same can be said for fat and blood. Because your blood is mostly water, fats will not mix with blood and need to be attached to a protein for transportation. This fat (lipid) and protein combination are called a lipoprotein.
LDL, HDL & VLDL explained
You may be familiar with the two most common lipoproteins which are HDL (high-density lipoprotein) and LDL (low-density lipoprotein).HDL cholesterol has earned the nickname “good” cholesterol because it contains more protein than fat and its job is to transport fatty substances out of the arteries and back to the liver to be broken down.
LDL or LDL cholesterol has been given the nickname “bad” cholesterol because it contains higher amounts of fat than protein and it contributes to the build-up of plaque in arteries, a condition called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a major contributing factor associated with heart disease.
Like LDL, VLDL is a type of harmful cholesterol. VLDL cholesterol contains the highest amount of fat (triglyceride) and contributes to the build-up of cholesterol on the walls of your arteries.
Determining VLDL Cholesterol Levels
Your doctor can determine your level of VLDL cholesterol by performing a simple blood test. A lab will estimate your VLDL level as a percentage of your triglyceride value. If a more precise measurement is needed, your doctor will request a VAP cholesterol test, which measures the amount of VLDL in your blood more directly.
A normal test will show VLDL levels between 5 and 40 mg/dL. If your blood shows a level above the normal cholesterol range, you are at higher risk of heart disease or stroke.
How To Lower VLDL Cholesterol Levels
You can take steps to lower the level of VLDL cholesterol in your blood.
1. You should discuss the need for medication with your doctor. You can work with your doctor to decide if medication is needed or if your level of bad cholesterol can be lowered with lifestyle changes.
2. If you are overweight, lose the excess weight. You can significantly lower LDL, VLDL, and triglycerides by losing weight.
3. You should cut back on your consumption of saturated fats. Saturated fats are mainly from animal sources (meats, lard, full-fat dairy products) but can also be found in certain plant oils (palm oil, cocoa butter, coconut oil).
4. You should also reduce your intake of trans fats or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils that are often found in cookies, crackers, cakes, French fries, and baked goods.
5. You can lower your VLDL cholesterol level by exercising most days for approximately 30 minutes.
6. If you have elevated VLDL and triglyceride levels, the American Heart Association suggests that you should avoid alcohol.