Cholesterol Advice

Why HDL is Good Cholesterol

All cholesterol is not bad. The cholesterol that blocks the arteries causing severe health problems is LDL cholesterol, the "bad" cholesterol. But HDL, short for high-density lipoprotein, is "good" cholesterol because it reverses the damages done by LDL. LDL cholesterol tends to block the blood vessels while HDL cholesterol tends to open them.

The disease in which plaques (cholesterol deposits) form on the inner surfaces of the arteries is known as atherosclerosis. These LDL deposits obstruct the flow of blood when it clots in the roughened plaques, leading to heart attack or strokes. HDL cholesterol prevents atherosclerosis. It removes the LDL plaques from the inner walls of the arteries and sends them to the liver. The liver then reprocesses them or eliminates them though bile.

HDL cholesterol greatly helps reduce the risk of severe diseases. Both men and women benefit from high levels of HDL cholesterol as it is a direct factor that reduces health risks. HDL cholesterol literally scavenges and eliminates the harmful LDL cholesterol. It acts a guard of the inner walls of the arteries (endothelium). It keeps the endothelium clean and healthy.

As with LDL cholesterol, levels of HDL cholesterol are dependant on both genetic as well as lifestyle factors. Families with high levels of HDL cholesterol live a healthier and longer life than those with low levels.

People who are obese, lead a sedentary lifestyle, eat fatty food, smoke cigarettes, or have type 2 diabetes generally have falling levels of HDL cholesterol. Conversely, those who are fit, active, eat healthy food and exercise regularly have good levels of HDL cholesterol. The hormone estrogen in women also increases levels of HDL cholesterol. Read ways to increase HDL .

Ideal levels of HDL cholesterol:

HDL cholesterol level of more than 60 mg per dL is considered ideal. Between 40 and 60 is fair. Lesser than 40 is bad. Higher the better.

The ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol is a good yardstick of evaluating the risk of atherosclerosis. Lesser the ratio, lesser the risk. The ideal ratio is anything lesser than 4. On an average it is found to be 4.5. High levels of total cholesterol but lower levels of HDL cholesterol spell danger. Low levels of total cholesterol and high levels of HDH cholesterol decreases the ratio and is good.

There are many factors that govern the health of the heart but HDL cholesterol is a major contributor. There are people having low levels of HDL and still very healthy and there are also those with high levels of HDL but ailing. But on an average it is found that high levels of HDL translate into a healthy heart.