The Importance Of HDL Cholesterol

HDL, high density lipoprotein, or the “good” cholesterol helps remove other cholesterol from your bloodstream.  The higher level of HDL that you have gives you a lower risk of heart disease.  Though sometimes your HDL levels can be due to genetics there are some things you can do to help boost your HDL levels so that they are higher. 

HDL helps balance out your LDL, or low density lipoprotein.  LDL is “bad” cholesterol because it can build up within the wall of your blood vessels causing narrowing in the passageways.  This narrowing in the passageways can lead to heart attack or stroke.  You need a good HDL to stay heart healthy.  


What do HDL numbers mean?

  • A low level of HDL in men is 40mg/dL or lower, and in women a low level is 50mg/dL or lower. 
  • Normal range for men and women is 60mg/dL or higher. 

If you have a low HDL level and a high LDL level your doctor may want to lower your LDL level first before working on your HDL levels.  


What can you do to raise your HDL?

There are medications you can take to boost your HDL levels.  There are also lifestyle changes that you can do or things you can add into your diet to help boost your HDL levels as well. 

First let’s look at the diet.  Add olive oil into your diet.  Olive oil is high in calories so use sparingly, but olive oil helps with inflammation of LDL cholesterol.  Also adding in coconut oil which has been shown to be very heart healthy.  Other foods to add into your diet are beans, legumes, whole grains, high fiber fruit, fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, flax seeds, or flaxseed oil, nuts, chia seeds, avocado, soy, red wine, and purple produce which includes: eggplant, red cabbage, blueberries, and black berries. 

If you consume alcohol, consume moderately.  If you don’t drink alcohol do not start to try and boost your HDL levels. 

Eating heart healthy, you will want to reduce saturated fats, eliminate trans fat, increase soluble fiber, increase omega-3 fatty acids, and add in whey protein.  Eating healthy can help you manage your blood sugar which can also help with your HDL levels. 

Increase your exercise.  Make sure you are partaking in daily exercise.  You will want to strive for about 150minutes of exercise per week.  This does not have to be extreme workouts, this can be a long walk.  Exercising daily will help you lose weight which can also help boost your HDL levels. 

You will want to make sure your blood pressure is in a reasonable range as well.  Approximately your blood pressure should be around 130/80mmHg.  

There are medications that can cause low levels of HDL cholesterol.  Medications such as beta blockers, anabolic steroids, progestins, or benzodiazepines.  Other things that can cause low levels are obesity, sedentary lifestyle, type 2 diabetes, inflammation, or smoking.  


Should I be concerned about a high HDL number?

There is no level of HDL that has been deemed as too high.  HDL doesn’t normally reach upper levels that could be harmful.  Though it can happen.  In some studies of people with high HDL levels you could be at risk of having multiple cardiac events, such as a heart attack.  There are ways to manage though too high of HDL levels, even if they are rare.  



Managing your cholesterol levels can be a balancing act.  Sometimes just changing some things in your lifestyle can balance them right out, or you may need some medications to help.  Having a healthy level of HDL cholesterol can help prevent heart disease.  Sometimes it can be hard to increase your HDL cholesterol due to genetics, talk with your doctor if you started implementing some of these changes and haven’t seen a difference in your levels.  


HDL (the good) cholesterol helps balance and keep in check LDL (the bad) cholesterol!  Know your HDL numbers!


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