High-density lipoprotein cholesterol transports low-density lipoprotein cholesterol from the bloodstream and arterial walls to the liver, where it is broken down and then eliminated from the body. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is one of two types of cholesterol found in the blood. Like its “bad” counterpart, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, HDL cholesterol is made up of a lipoprotein shell and a cholesterol center.
When HDL cholesterol is at a healthy level, LDL cholesterol is transported from the arteries to the liver, where LDL is broken down and excreted, or processed. This reduces the risk of serious heart disease and stroke in the long term. Besides low-density lipoprotein and triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol makes up the three individual components measured in the lipid panel, the blood test that doctors and other primary care providers use to measure your cholesterol.
All adults over the age of 20 should have their cholesterol checked every four to six years, as long as their overall risk remains low. After age 40, your doctor will also use a calculator to check your 10-year risk of heart attack or stroke. Scientists have found mounting evidence that high-density lipoprotein cholesterol helps maintain the inner walls of blood vessels, which may prevent primary blood vessel damage associated with atherosclerosis, the disease that precedes a heart attack or stroke. In a Swedish study published earlier this year, researchers found that testing HDL cholesterol’s ability to reduce inflammation can help calculate an estimate of heart disease risk.
HDL cholesterol levels
The following blood levels are considered desirable for high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, which is measured in milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL):
The risk level is less than 40 mg/dL for men and 50 mg/dL for women.
The desired level is 60 mg/dL or more.
However, people with very high levels of HDL cholesterol (greater than 107 mg/dL) appear to be more likely to develop heart disease, according to a University of Pennsylvania study, published in March 2016 in the journal Science. Due to genetic differences, the body of people with very high HDL cholesterol levels does not seem to process the different particles in a typical way.
How to raise the level of HDL cholesterol?
If your HDL cholesterol level is lower than desired levels, your doctor may recommend lifestyle strategies to raise it, including the following:
Avoid a diet rich in saturated fats and trans fats. A diet rich in saturated fats found in animal products, including whole dairy products, as well as many processed foods, can raise your LDL and total cholesterol levels.
Trans fats, sometimes found in fast foods and in many types of bread, crackers, cakes, chips and store-bought snacks, can also lower HDL cholesterol levels.
Choose a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, poultry, fish, nuts, and non-tropical vegetable oils.
I exercise regularly. Do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week, preferably spread over several days. If you’re not used to exercising, low-impact aerobic exercise is a good way to start. Exercise has two effects on cholesterol: it increases levels of HDL cholesterol in the body, and also increases the size of LDL particles, making them less likely to form plaques on the walls of coronary arteries.
– Regulating blood sugar. For people with or prediabetes, it is also important to monitor their blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels can raise LDL cholesterol, but it also lowers HDL cholesterol and weakens artery walls.
– stop smoking. Although it is difficult to quit the habit, quitting smoking can help prevent high cholesterol. If you don’t smoke, don’t start.
Tobacco smoke damages the walls of blood vessels, making it easier for plaque to build up in them. Smoking also reduces HDL cholesterol levels.
Keep your weight in a healthy range. A BMI of 30 or higher is generally associated with an increased risk of abnormal cholesterol levels.
People who are overweight or obese are also more likely to develop metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions that includes high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and high blood pressure. People with metabolic syndrome also tend to have lower HDL levels.
* Presse Santé strives to impart medical knowledge in a language accessible to all. In no way can the information provided replace medical advice.
Like our content?
Get our latest releases for free and straight to your inbox every day