The acronym HDL stands for High Density Lipoprotein. It is one of a group of substances called lipoproteins that your body creates to help it transport fats around the body. HDL-cholesterol is often also known as “good cholesterol”, as it’s able to remove and carry away cholesterol from the arteries, returning them to your liver to be eliminated.
HDL-cholesterol shouldn’t be confused with LDL-(Low Density Lipoprotein, or “bad cholesterol”), which actually builds up cholesterol in the arteries and veins; for more information on this, check out our LDL-cholesterol article. High cholesterol is a risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease. There are many risk factors for coronary heart disease, and it is important to take care of all of them to reduce overall risk of it.
Checking your HDL-cholesterol
If your GP recommends that you check your cholesterol levels, they’ll be looking into how much cholesterol you have overall, as well as the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL-cholesterol.
- According to the NHS, your level of HDL should be above 1mmol/L.
- As a proportion of your total level of cholesterol, the ratio of HDL should be below four.
When you get your results back, a healthcare professional can help you correctly interpret your test results. When it comes to reading the numbers, it’s important you know what is HDL-cholesterol and what is not.
High HDL-cholesterol levels are generally considered good, so it’s important to maintain HDL-cholesterol at a level that at least meets the recommended level. Cholesterol ratios are explained in more detail here.
Increasing HDL-cholesterol levels
If your cholesterol test shows that your cholesterol is elevated, the first thing your doctor is going to do is take a look at your diet and lifestyle. Why? Because although there are many factors that can influence your cholesterol levels – family history, age, gender, and excess weight – changes to diet and lifestyle are the factors you are most able to control. Moving towards a healthy diet and lifestyle is a small but significant change you can make towards HDL-cholesterol levels.
Exercise, reducing the number of saturated and trans fats in your diet by replacing them with unsaturated fats, and introducing food products that contain cholesterol-lowering plant sterols into your diet will all go a long way towards managing cholesterol.