Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance in the cells of your body. The liver produces cholesterol, which can also be found in foods like dairy products and meat. Several body processes require some cholesterol, but excess cholesterol in the blood increases the risk of coronary artery disease.
LDL and HDL are lipoproteins – a combination of protein and fat (lipid). The lipids are attached to proteins to enable their movement in the blood. LDL and HDL have varying purposes.
A blood test can measure your cholesterol levels, including HDL. How often and when you need the test will depend on your risk factors, family history and age. The general recommendations include the following:
Higher HDL levels are better because a high HDL level can reduce your risk of developing coronary artery disease and stroke. The level of your HDL will depend on your sex and age.
|Age group||Healthy HDL level|
|Age 19 or younger||Above 45mg/dl|
|Men – aged 20 or older||Above 40mg/dl|
|Women – aged 20 or older||Above 50mg/dl|
If you have a low HDL level, certain lifestyle changes can help. These lifestyle changes may also prevent other diseases and improve your overall health.
Eating good rather than bad fats is necessary to raise your HDL level. This requires reducing saturated fats in cheese, fat-full milk, high-fat meats like bacon and sausage, and foods made with shortening, lard and butter.
Ensure you avoid eating trans fats found in some fried foods and margarine and processed foods such as baked goods. Opt for unsaturated fats in nuts, avocados and vegetable oils like olive oil. Reduce your carbohydrate intake, especially sugar. You can also eat foods high in fibre, such as beans and oatmeal.
Losing excess weight can help raise your HDL level, especially if you have lots of fat around your waist.
Regular exercise can improve your HDL level and reduce your LDL level. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate to intense aerobic exercise several times weekly.
Exposure to second-hand smoke and smoking can reduce your HDL level. If you smoke, consult your healthcare professional for ways to help you quit.
Moderate consumption of alcohol may reduce your HDL, but more studies are necessary to confirm this. However, excess alcohol can cause weight gain and reduce your HDL level.
Some cholesterol medications, such as certain statins, can increase your HDL level and lower your LDL level. Most healthcare providers do not usually prescribe medicines for only raising HDL, but medication may be necessary if you also have a high LDL level.
Some medicines can lower HDL levels. These medicines include:
If you are taking any of the medications above and your HDL level is very low, consult your provider if you should continue the medication.
Diabetes can also reduce your HDL level, so managing diabetes is important.
If you are concerned about low HDL levels and need a blood test to check your HDL level, visit Health Screening Clinic today at Suite E, 117a Harley St, Marylebone, London W1G 6AT. You can contact us at 02071830244 to schedule an appointment for your cholesterol test, including an HDL level test.