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Understanding Your HDL

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HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is often referred to as the good cholesterol. You can remember that HDL is the Happy cholesterol and that you want your HDL number to be High. You can think of HDL cholesterol as garbage trucks. These particles are not depositing cholesterol in your arteries, but rather are removing it from your system. The higher the HDL cholesterol the better. You want as much of your cholesterol as possible to be on its way out of your body rather than finding a place to park in it


Everyone’s HDL cholesterol level should be above 40 mg/dL (you don’t have to remember the units, just the numbers). Premenopausal women should have an HDL cholesterol well over 50. At the present time, one out of every four Americans has an HDL number below 40, and this puts them at increased risk of developing heart and vascular disease.


HDL cholesterol levels can be very difficult to budge, but changes can be made.


A diet high in fiber and low in saturated fat helps raise HDL levels. Weight loss in overweight individuals helps improve HDL readings. Regular exercise can be a powerful stimulus to increasing HDL. Stopping smoking can increase HDL levels by 15-20%. And, if otherwise appropriate, moderate alcohol consumption (defined as one to two alcohol-containing drinks per day: one for women or smaller adults, two for men) has been shown to increase HDL readings.


However, despite all these efforts you might not see much of a change in your HDL number.


But don’t be discouraged; there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, HDL changes tend to be small (a five-point increase is considered a big deal). Second, even small differences in HDL translate into big benefits. A 1 point increase in HDL translates into as much as a 6 percent decrease in cardiovascular risk. And even if you see little to no change in HDL levels, all the lifestyle changes you have made will translate into a healthier you. :common076[1]:

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