The "HDL" in HDL Cholesterol stands for High-density lipoprotein. It's one of the five major groups of lipoproteins (which enable fats to be carried in the blood stream). Cholesterol levels are an important measure of heart health. Each bit of HDL cholesterol is a microscopic particle consisting of a rim of lipoprotein surrounding a cholesterol center. The HDL cholesterol particle is dense compared to other types, which is why it's referred to as "high density". Though a physician may say to lower the total cholesterol, it's important to raise HDL cholesterol. 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. HDL cholesterol acts as scavengers, picking up excess LDL cholesterol and delivering it to the liver, where it's broken down.
HDL Cholesterol Medical Treatment
Even small increases in HDL cholesterol can reduce the frequency of heart attacks. For each 1 mg/dL increase in HDL cholesterol there is a two-four percent reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease. Although there are no formal guidelines, the proposed treatment goals for patients with low HDL cholesterol is to increase it to above 35 mg/dL for men and 45 mg/dL for women with a family history of coronary heart disease. Various medications can lower blood cholesterol levels. They may be prescribed individually or in combination with other drugs. Niacin (Niaspan) is usually the best medication to increase HDL cholesterol. It can be purchased over-the-counter, but prescription niacin is preferred, as it has the least side effects. Fibrates (Lofibra, Tricor) and gemfibrozil (Lopid) can also help increase HDL cholesterol levels. Finally, statins can block a substance the liver needs to make cholesterol. This reduces cholesterol in the liver cells, which reduces the cholesterol in the blood stream. Statins also may help the body reabsorb cholesterol from built up deposits on the artery walls. If a doctor prescribes medication to help treat HDL cholesterol and total cholesterol levels, take it as directed and continue to focus on a healthy lifestyle.
HDL Cholesterol Lifestyle and Home Treatment
The first step in HDL cholesterol treatment is modification of lifestyle. Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. Individuals should take control of their cholesterol levels and greatly reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. As part of a complete prevention and treatment program for managing cholesterol, a doctor may suggest making some lifestyle changes. Eating a heart-healthy diet is important. This includes a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, high-fiber foods, lean meats and poultry, fish at least twice a week and fat-free or one percent dairy products, and foods low in saturated and trans fats, in order to raise HDL cholesterol and lower LDL cholesterol. Enjoy at least thirty minutes of physical activity more days than not, whether it's walking, biking, swimming, jogging, or dancing. Those who smoke tobacco have a much greater risk of high total cholesterol and heart disease and quitting will reduce that risk. Additionally, limiting alcoholic consumption to less than two drinks a day can reduce risk. 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.