Cholesterol is a fatty or waxy substance found in your blood. It is possible to absorb cholesterol through foods such as eggs, meat and dairy products. Although known to be harmful to health, cholesterol is not completely bad.
Typically, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) is the good cholesterol that removes bad or LDL cholesterol from your bloodstream before it builds up. However, the body needs an adequate amount of cholesterol to function.
Keep reading to learn more about HDL cholesterol and how you can increase its levels for better health.
HDL cholesterol: what is it?
Cholesterol moves through the blood by a class of proteins called lipoproteins. A lipoprotein is a set of soluble proteins associated with lipids in blood plasma.
There is HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. The term “good cholesterol” often refers to high density lipoproteins. HDL cholesterol removes excess cholesterol and plaque buildup from your arteries and passes it to your liver for disposal.
In addition, to research showed that HDL cholesterol reduces the risk of developing heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
Finding Your HDL Levels: A Guide
According to research, a healthy HDL cholesterol level (based on milligrams per deciliter measured during a fast) should be at least 40 mg/dl for men, 50 mg/dl for women, and above 45 mg/dl for children . Therefore, a number above 60 mg/dL is high and below 40 mg/dL is low.
You can determine your cholesterol level using a blood test called a lipid panel. Depending on your age, gender, risk factors, and family history, you should have this test occasionally or as needed.
For 19 years or less
- You should take your first test between the ages of 9 and 11.
- After that, children can get tested every five years.
- From the age of 2, some children can have this test, but only if there is a family history of high cholesterol and other cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke.
For 20 years or more
- You can get tested every five years.
- Ideally, perform these tests every 1-2 years for women 55-65 and men 45-65.
Note from The Fitness Freak
Your HDL number should not be less than 40 (or at least 50 if you are female). A healthy level of HDL cholesterol can protect against heart attacks and strokes because it carries LDL cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver for elimination. However, it does not completely eliminate LDL cholesterol because a certain amount is needed for general well-being.
What causes HDL levels to drop?
If you’re worried about having low HDL levels, avoiding smoking, excessive weight gain, and adopting a sedentary lifestyle can help reverse the situation. Also, some people may have reduced HDL levels after taking specific medications. So, if you are taking any of the following products, you can consult your doctor to solve the problem.
- Beta-blockers (medicines for high blood pressure)
- Anabolic steroids (based on male hormones)
- Progestins (female hormones)
- Benzodiazepines (sedatives for anxiety and insomnia)
Methods to Increase HDL Levels
Physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight
Losing weight can increase your HDL level, especially if you have a lot of excess fat. Additionally, regular exercise can lower your LDL levels and improve your HDL levels. Therefore, dedicate 30 minutes of your day to moderate to vigorous aerobic activity.
Reduce tobacco and alcohol consumption
Since tobacco products reduce HDL levels and increase LDL levels, smoking lowers your HDL level. If you smoke, you should research the most effective strategy for quitting. Also try to stay away from passive smoking.
Additionally, drinking too much alcohol increases weight gain, which lowers HDL levels. For your health, avoid the consumption of alcohol and tobacco.
You can improve the HDL/LDL ratio by making the right food choices, which can lower your LDL levels. Avoid trans fats (in some baked goods and fried foods) and limit saturated fats (whole dairy products, meats). Additionally, you should eat foods that increase HDL, such as:
- Whole grains, such as bran, cereals, and brown or wild rice
- Heart-healthy fats are abundant in nuts, including Brazil nuts, almondspistachios and other varieties.
- Avocados contain a beneficial type of fat (monounsaturated and folate) that lowers your risk of stroke, cardiac arrest, and cardiovascular disease and helps maintain HDL levels.
- Fiber-rich foods like kidney beans, oatmeal, Brussels sprouts, apples, and pears
Even though high levels of LDL cholesterol can be harmful, HDL cholesterol is still necessary for good health. It is important to note that the ideal level of HDL can differ from person to person, depending on age and gender.
Additionally, dietary, environmental, and medical factors can impact HDL levels, either raising or lowering them. If you plan to make significant changes to your diet or use frequent testing to monitor your HDL levels, it’s best to speak with a healthcare provider first to discuss your goals.