Maintaining optimal HDL levels can help protect you against heart disease.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as “good” cholesterol, is one of two types of cholesterol found in your blood.
The other type is low-density lipoprotein (LDL), sometimes called “bad” cholesterol.
Optimal levels of HDL may lower your risk of heart attack and stroke.
HDL cholesterol helps your body remove LDL by carrying it from the bloodstream and artery walls to your liver, where LDL is broken down and excreted from the body.
HDL Cholesterol Levels
Cholesterol is measured in milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood.
The following are considered healthy and unhealthy blood levels of HDL cholesterol, according to the Mayo Clinic:
- Poor: below 40 mg/dL (men) and below 50 mg/dL (women)
- Better: 50 to 59 mg/dL
- Ideal: 60 mg/dL and above
How to Raise Your HDL Cholesterol
If your HDL cholesterol level is too low, your doctor may recommend the following strategies for raising it:
Lose weight. People who are overweight or have metabolic syndrome — a group of problems that includes obesity, high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels, and elevated blood sugar — tend to have lower HDL levels. Even modest weight loss can help raise it.
Become more active. Exercise has two specific effects on cholesterol: It raises levels of HDL, and it also increases the size of LDL particles, which makes them less likely to form plaque on coronary artery walls.
Quit smoking. In addition to lowering your HDL level, smoking causes damage to the walls of your blood vessels, making it easier for plaque to accumulate.
Control your blood sugar. If you have diabetes and your HDL level is too low, it’s especially important to keep your blood sugar under control. High blood sugar can weaken the lining of your arteries, raise LDL levels, and lower HDL levels.
Alcohol and Cholesterol
Moderate drinking may raise your HDL cholesterol levels, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Moderate drinking means one drink per day for women of all ages and men over age 65. Men under age 65 can have up to two drinks a day.
Source: Mayo clinic , American Heart Association