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HDL Cholesterol Causes

January 19, 2016  |  Difficulty: Easy

blood test

If your HDL cholesterol levels measure 40 mg/dL or less, you will be diagnosed with low HDL cholesterol. HDL means "high-density lipoprotein" - this is the "good" cholesterol that helps keep cholesterol away from your arteries and gets rid of any excess by excreting it into the intestines along with bile.

HDL actually carries the LDL cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol or low-density lipoprotein), triglycerides, and harmful fats back to the liver. The liver breaks them down so that too much cholesterol doesn’t build up in the bloodstream. The problem occurs when there is too much LDL and not enough HDL to carry it back, creating an imbalance that may lead to a heart disease.

HDL Levels

Optimal levels for HDL cholesterol are over 40 mg/dL for men and over 50 mg/dL for women. While we have all heard about the importance of raising HDL and lowering LDL to improve heart health, for a certain group of people, the elevated levels of HDL (60 mg/dL or above ) mean a high risk for recurrent coronary events.

What Causes the Drop or Raise?

HDL is a protein made by the body that is primarily genetically determined. However, environmental factors also have a significant impact on HDL levels.

Factors that could cause your HDL levels to be too low are: smoking, high triglycerid levels, uncontrolled diabetes, a diet high in carbohydrates and saturated fat, lack of physical activity, being overweight, and certain medications (anabolic steroids, progestins).

Factors that elevate HDL concentrations include chronic alcoholism, treatment with oral estrogen replacement therapy, extensive aerobic exercise, and treatment with niacin, statins, or fibrates. Sometimes, a temporary drop in HDL occurs when major changes have been made in the diet and total cholesterol has been lowered significantly.

When you know the factors, keeping it in balance is the key to success. If you have been diagnosed with low or high HDL levels, discuss the best treatment plan with your physician.

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