What is HDL Cholesterol?

It is a known fact that people have been diagnosed with a variety of cardiovascular disorders around the world for the past century. There are numerous predisposing and precipitating factors that can trigger and exacerbate these conditions including smoking, blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, obesity, lifestyle, age, genetics and cholesterol levels. People who are informed on the effects of cholesterol levels in their body are often more conscious of their health than others. Meanwhile, there are also those who don’t have any idea about cholesterol levels. When asked about the difference of HDL and LDL cholesterol levels, they merely ask back. So what is HDL and how can this change your health as a whole?

What is HDL?

HDL stands for high-density lipoproteins, otherwise known as the good cholesterol. On the other hand, LDL stands for low-density lipoproteins, commonly known as the bad cholesterol. For a lot of people, the word cholesterol is enough to keep them away. They don’t know that there is actually good and bad cholesterol, which can affect their body in more ways than one. In a medical test wherein your cholesterol levels are measured, the components will be indicated including the HDL, the LDL and your blood fats or triglycerides. Generally, except for a few exceptions, doctors consider a high amount of HDL and a low value of LDR to be a good thing. However, if the LDL is high and the HDL is low, it’s considered to be unhealthy. A study in Framingham Heart has shown that there is the levels of high-density lipoproteins in the body are inversely proportional to the risk of acquiring atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases. On the other hand, the levels of low-density lipoproteins in the body are directly proportional to the risk of acquiring the said cardiovascular diseases. Hence, having low HDL and high LDLs can significantly increase the possibility of being diagnosed with atherosclerosis.

Millions of people in the United States alone have low levels of high-density lipoproteins in their bodies mainly due to diabetes and obesity. When first introduced to the concept of cholesterol levels, most patients typically throw around queries on what is HDL and what are its effects on their body. Normally, your health provider will give you options and recommendations including a healthy diet, exercise, sleeping early and stopping cigarette smoking that can help increase the HDL levels and reduce the LDL levels in your body. This in turn, results to a healthier body.

Now that this article answered the common question of "what is HDL", it is high time to determine the benefits of high levels HDL in the body. One of the most essential advantages of HDL is the fact that it compels the reverse cholesterol transport process. We all know that cholesterol in the blood vessels is bad news right? Well, the high-density lipoproteins sponge up the cholesterol that is embedded in the walls of the blood vessels and take them to the liver. Once they’re in the liver, they are prepared for elimination through the gastrointestinal tract. This ability prevents cardiovascular diseases that are usually brought about by blocked blood vessels. The higher the levels of HDL, the faster it is for the body to reduce cholesterol levels and avoid blood vessel blockades from developing.

Another benefit of the high-density lipoprotein in the body is its capacity to dilate the blood vessels, promoting better circulation. It also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which can help decrease blood vessel injuries dramatically.

What is HDL lifestyle change?

Lifestyle modifications are important in order to increase the HDL levels in your body. This is a difficult phase for a lot of people who are so used to being neutral about their diet, their weight loss regimens and their sedentary lifestyle. There are numerous ways to modify your lifestyle in order to feel and be healthy.

For instance, a study has shown that stopping cigarette smoking can help elevate the high-density lipoproteins in your body by up to 20%. This percentage is equal to the effects of drug-HDL-elevating drugs in the body. Obese people who are going through an intense weight loss regimen are also known to increase their HDL cholesterol levels in proportion to the circumference of the waist they reduce. There are also several diets that are known to increase high-density lipoproteins including the Mediterranean diet and eating fish. Patients who drink 2 to 6 ounces of wine after dinner also show considerable increase in their HDL levels.

What is HDL medication?

For those with medical conditions that can’t entirely be helped with lifestyle modifications alone, pharmacological interventions can be a huge helping hand in order to elevate the high-density lipoproteins in the body. Medications can also be important in people whose genetics altered the way their bodies regulate their HDL levels. For instance, there are people who are predisposed to have high levels of HDLs while there are those who have low levels of HDL.

Medications called the ‘statins’ have been used to decrease the potential of death and heart attack in patients with extremely high levels low-density lipoproteins and low levels of high-density lipoproteins. These drugs are given to patients with high-risk medical tests in order to prevent potential cardiovascular diseases even if it wasn’t established or diagnosed yet. Niacin is one of the most popular and concentrated drug that is highly effective in elevating HDL levels in the body and decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke. It is important not to take niacin in its dietary supplement form since this is not as effective as the medication prescribed by your physician. When you’re prescribed to take statins and Niacin together, it is essential that you steer clear of beta-carotene supplements, vitamin E and vitamin C supplements. This is because these drugs can inhibit the action of the statins and niacins, thereby preventing them from raising HDL levels. Fibrates, more commonly known as fenofibrate or gemfibrozil, are also effective in patients with low HDL counts. Fish oil supplements that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids are also scientifically proven to elevate HDL cholesterol levels in the body.

With the numerous health benefits given by high-density lipoproteins, raising awareness about it is important. With the right lifestyle modifications and medications, you can have a healthy and risk-free heart in no time at all.


1. Toth, P. (2005) “The Good Cholesterol: High Density Lipoproteins”, American Heart Association.

2. Rice, M., et.al. (2011) “Acute Decrease in HDL Cholesterol Associated With Exposure to Welding Fumes”, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

3. Krumholz, H. (2009) “Statins for Primary Prevention: Homing in on Effectiveness”, Journal Watch Cardiology.

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