What to Do About Low HDL Cholesterol
If your doctor says that your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol level is too low, take heart. There are steps you can take to improve this “good" cholesterol—and boost your cardiovascular health. Here’s some information you can use to begin discussing a plan with your doctor.
Understanding the Role of ‘Good’ Cholesterol
Although you may hear a lot about lowering cholesterol numbers, HDL cholesterol is one type of cholesterol that you want as high as possible.
That’s because HDL cholesterol is thought to carry low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad," cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it’s removed from the body.
Healthy blood cholesterol levels are believed to offer protection against heart disease and stroke. They vary by age and gender.
- For women age 20 or older, experts suggest aiming for an HDL cholesterol level of 50 mg/dl or higher.
- For men age 20 or older, the recommendation is an HDL cholesterol level of 40 mg/dl or higher.
Boost HDL Cholesterol with Lifestyle Changes
On a daily basis, you can make choices to raise your HDL while lowering your LDL.
- Aim for a healthy weight.
- Get moving.
- Pass on foods that are high in trans fats.
- Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Quit smoking.
Other ways to boost HDL: Increase consumption of oily fish 1-2 times weekly and consider a Mediterranean-type diet.
Remember, you have the power to increase your HDL level through choices you make every day. Make your heart a priority and talk with your doctor for help in getting started.
Busting the Statin Myth
Despite some concerns of side effects of statin therapy, the drugs have consistently been proven to significantly reduce heart attacks and strokes. Oftentimes the side effects are mild and manageable and therefore a risk/benefit analysis favors use of statins in many people. Statin medications will primarily reduce bad cholesterol (LDL). A discussion with your provider about the appropriateness of statins for you, can help with decision making. For more information on this topic, visit the American Heart Association-