Many people are familiar with cholesterol but may not know about HDL cholesterol levels. So, what is HDL cholesterol, what does it mean, and how can you increase or decrease it for better health? Read on to explore more about HDL cholesterol in this article.
What is HDL Cholesterol?
HDL cholesterol stands for “High Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol,” which means cholesterol lipoproteins with high density. It is one of the lipoproteins synthesized in the liver and plays a crucial role in transporting cholesterol in the blood. Excess cholesterol in the blood vessels and organs is transported back to the liver, where it is metabolized and excreted from the body.
Thus, HDL cholesterol helps reduce cholesterol buildup in tissues and blood, earning its reputation as “good” cholesterol. In contrast, LDL cholesterol is considered “bad” cholesterol, raising concerns and increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
HDL cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood or in millimoles (mol) per liter (L). Depending on gender and age, healthy HDL cholesterol levels are as follows:
- Optimal level: 40mg/dL or higher.
- High level: 60mg/dL or higher.
- Low level: below 40mg/dL.
- Optimal level: 50mg/dL or higher.
- High level: 60mg/dL or higher.
- Low level: below 50mg/dL.
High HDL Cholesterol Level
In essence, having high levels of HDL cholesterol in the blood is beneficial for health, as it helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) assists the body in removing bad cholesterol, preventing its accumulation on the arterial walls. This, in turn, lowers the risk of heart disease or stroke. Increasing HDL levels is beneficial for health, and to achieve this, you should follow a healthy diet, lifestyle, and exercise regimen.
Decreased HDL Level
A decrease in HDL cholesterol level leads to the accumulation of bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) in the body, increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Plaque formation occurs in the arteries, causing dangerous cardiovascular complications such as angina, coronary artery disease, heart attack, cardiac arrest, heart failure, stroke, and more.
Signs of Decreased HDL Cholesterol Level
Individuals with coronary artery disease and low HDL-Cholesterol levels and/or high triglycerides often exhibit the following conditions:
- History of recurring angina (chest pain).
- Elevated uric acid levels in the blood, leading to a higher risk of gout.
- Reduced Left Ventricular Ejection Fraction (EF) resulting in decreased pumping ability of the left ventricle.
Doctors rely on the concentration of different blood lipids to assess a person’s health status. Additionally, they may consider the following indices:
- Total Cholesterol/HDL Cholesterol Ratio: This index assesses whether the body has an adequate amount of good cholesterol and reduced levels of bad cholesterol. The ideal ratio is <4, and the lower the ratio, the healthier your cholesterol levels. Several scientific studies have shown that the Total Cholesterol/HDL Cholesterol ratio is a more accurate predictor of the risk of heart disease compared to LDL-Cholesterol alone.
- Non-HDL Cholesterol: This index is calculated by subtracting HDL Cholesterol from the total cholesterol. The ideal level is <130 mg/dL, and higher values increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Non-HDL Cholesterol is considered a more accurate predictor than LDL Cholesterol because it includes very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) levels as well.
What to Do When HDL Cholesterol Level Decreases
If your HDL Cholesterol level is low, there are steps you can take at home without medication to improve it:
- Create a specific plan for a healthy diet and engage in regular exercise to manage weight and maintain a healthy body.
- Incorporate heart-healthy foods that can improve HDL levels. According to nutrition experts, ideal foods include fruits, vegetables, nuts, salmon, and tuna.
- Avoid consuming saturated fats found in processed foods, fast food, fried foods, and animal organs. Especially, try not to exceed 300mg of cholesterol per day.
- Limit alcohol consumption and quit smoking to significantly improve your health.
- Regularly exercise and engage in physical activities to enhance HDL Cholesterol levels in the blood.
Important Notes for Patients
To accurately determine your HDL cholesterol level, you need to visit healthcare facilities for testing. If any adverse signs are detected, the doctor will guide you on the best course of action. It is essential to follow the doctor’s instructions persistently, and also take note of the following:
- Regularly undergo check-ups to have a clear understanding of your health condition.
- Do not self-administer any medications without the doctor’s prescription and guidance.
- Adhere to safe measures to lower HDL cholesterol levels to ensure good health.
- If any unusual symptoms are observed, promptly seek medical attention.
The above provides some information about HDL cholesterol levels in the blood and how to address low levels. It is hoped that this article has provided useful information to help you better understand your health and take better care of yourself.
John Alen was born in 1971 and is a doctor in the healthcare and psychology fields with many years of experience. He is currently working at easyhealthylive.com, a leading health and psychology blog. Having studied at Y1 National Medical University named after IM Sechenov, John Alen is using his knowledge and experience to help improve the physical and mental health of people in the United States.