The "HDL" in HDL Cholesterol stands for High-density lipoprotein. HDL cholesterol is the "good" cholesterol that scavenges the blood stream, delivering the LDL, or "bad", cholesterol to the liver, where it is broken down. Each bit of HDL cholesterol is a microscopic blob that consists of a rim of lipoprotein surrounding a cholesterol center. The HDL cholesterol particle is dense compared to other types of cholesterol particles, which is why it's referred to as "high density". Cholesterol is an essential fat that provides stability in every cell of the body.
It travels through the blood stream with the help of lipoproteins, each of which has it s own preferences for cholesterol and acts differently depending on which cholesterol it is carrying. In healthy individuals, approximately thirty percent of blood cholesterol is carried by HDL. Cholesterol levels are an important measure of heart health. Though a physician may say to lower the total cholesterol, it's important to raise HDL cholesterol. Experts believe HDL cholesterol may act in a variety of helpful ways that tend to reduce the risk for heart disease. Individuals over the age of 20 should have a fasting lipoprotein profile that measures total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and triglycerides once every five years.
Causes of Poor High Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol Levels
HDL cholesterol is known as the "good" cholesterol, so the higher the HDL cholesterol the better. Lowering LDL (low-density lipoprotein), or the "bad" cholesterol, and raising HDL cholesterol is a great way to reduce risk of heart disease. If the body has more LDL cholesterol than it needs, the excess keeps circulating in the blood stream. Over time, circulating LDL cholesterol can enter the blood vessel walls and build up under the vessel lining. Deposits of LDL particles are called plaques, and they narrow the blood vessels. Eventually, they can block blood flow, causing coronary artery disease. Unhealthy habits lead to lower HDL cholesterol levels, which consequently raises LDL cholesterol.
Such habits, lifestyle choices, and other factors that keep HDL cholesterol levels down include smoking tobacco, being overweight, lack of exercise (particularly aerobic), consuming too much alcohol (more than one or two drinks per day) and eating a diet rich in saturated and trans fats. Having a family history of heart problems, high blood pressure, and coronary heart disease also greatly increases the risk and likelihood of imbalanced cholesterol levels. Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the U. S., but individuals can take control of their HDL cholesterol levels and greatly reduce their risk.
Risk Factors for Poor High Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol Levels
The risk factors of the causes of low HDL cholesterol strongly correlates with the circumstantial causes. LDL cholesterol is produced naturally by the body, but many people inherit genes from their mother, father or even grandparents that cause them to make too much. Eating saturated fat, trans fats and dietary cholesterol also increases the level of LDL cholesterol in the body. If high cholesterol runs in the family, lifestyle modifications may not be enough to help raise HDL cholesterol and lower LDL cholesterol. The female sex hormone estrogen tends to raise HDL cholesterol naturally, and as a rule, women have higher HDL cholesterol levels than men.
Estrogen production is highest during the childbearing years, which contributes to the reason premenopausal women are usually protected from developing heart disease. Ultimately, the greatest risk factor of low HDL cholesterol levels is the development of heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. Everyone is different, so work with a doctor to find a treatment plan that's best. A healthcare professional will determine the best drug or combination, but will most certainly prescribe medications in tandem with appropriate diet and lifestyle modifications to help maintain healthy HDL cholesterol and total cholesterol levels.