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What is HDL cholesterol? A Detailed Guide – HealthifyMe

Cholesterol is a substance that is either fatty or waxy and can be found in your blood. It is possible to take in cholesterol through foods such as eggs, meat and dairy. Although it is considered injurious to health, cholesterol is not completely bad.

A general rule is that high-density lipoprotein (HDL) is the good cholesterol that removes bad or LDL cholesterol from your bloodstream before it builds up. However, the body requires a sufficient amount of cholesterol to function.

Keep reading to learn more about HDL cholesterol and how you can raise your levels for better health.

HDL Cholesterol: What is it?

Cholesterol is carried through the blood by a class of proteins called lipoproteins. A lipoprotein is a collection of soluble proteins combined with lipids in the blood plasma.

There are HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. The term “good cholesterol” often refers to high-density lipoprotein. HDL cholesterol removes excess cholesterol and plaque formation from your arteries and carries it to your liver for removal.

simultaneously, Research Studies have shown that HDL cholesterol lowers your risk of developing heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

Finding Your HDL Levels: A Guide

According to ResearchHealthy HDL cholesterol levels (based on a fasting milligram per deciliter measurement) should be at least 40 mg/dL for men, 50 mg/dL for women, and over 45 mg/dL for children . Therefore, a number greater than 60 mg/dL is high, and less than 40 mg/dL is low.

You can determine your cholesterol level by a blood test called a lipid panel. Depending on your age, gender, risk factors, and family history, you should undergo this test occasionally or as needed.

For 19 years or younger

  • You should give your first test between the age of 9 to 11 years.
  • After this, children can be examined every five years.
  • Starting at age 2, some children may undergo this test, but only if there is a family history of high blood cholesterol and other cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke.

for age 20 or older

  • You can get checked every five years.
  • Ideally, have these tests every 1-2 years for women ages 55 to 65 and men ages 45 to 65.

HealthifyMe Note

Your HDL count should not be less than 40 (or at least 50 if you are a woman). A healthy level of HDL cholesterol can protect against heart attack and stroke because it carries LDL cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver for removal. However, it does not completely eliminate LDL cholesterol as some amount is necessary for overall well-being.

What lowers HDL levels?

If you are concerned about low HDL levels, avoiding smoking, excessive weight gain and a sedentary lifestyle can help reverse the condition. Additionally, some individuals may have low HDL levels after taking certain medications. Therefore, if you take any of the following, you may consult your doctor to address the concern.

  • beta-blockers (blood pressure medicine)
  • anabolic steroids (male hormone-based)
  • progestin (female hormone)
  • Benzodiazepines (sedatives for anxiety and insomnia)

ways to increase hdl level

physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight

Losing weight can raise your HDL level, especially if you have a lot of body fat. Additionally, regular exercise can lower your LDL and improve your HDL levels. Therefore, dedicate 30 minutes of your day to moderate to vigorous aerobic activity.

reduce tobacco and alcohol use

Since tobacco products lower HDL levels and raise LDL levels, smoking lowers your HDL levels. If you smoke, you should look for the most effective strategy to stop. Try to stay away from passive smoking as well.

Additionally, drinking too much alcohol can lead to weight gain, which lowers HDL levels. Avoid consumption of alcohol and tobacco for your health.

eat right

You can improve your HDL to LDL ratio by making proper food choices, which can lower your LDL levels. Avoid trans fats (in some baked products and fried foods) and limit saturated fats (full-fat dairy, meats). Additionally, you should eat foods that increase HDL, such as:

  • whole grains, such as bran, buckwheat, and brown or wild rice
  • Heart-healthy fats are abundant in nuts, including Brazil nuts. AlmondPistachio, and other varieties.
  • Avocados contain a beneficial type of fat (monounsaturated and folate) that lowers your risk of stroke, cardiac arrest and heart disease, and helps maintain HDL levels.
  • fiber-rich foods such as kidney beans, oatmeal, Brussels sprouts, apples, and pears


Even though high LDL cholesterol levels can be harmful, HDL cholesterol is still essential for good health. It is important to note that the ideal HDL level can vary from person to person depending on age and gender.

Additionally, diet, environmental and medical factors can increase or decrease HDL levels. If you’re thinking about making significant changes to your diet or using frequent tests to monitor your HDL levels, it’s best to speak with a healthcare provider first to discuss your goals.

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