HDL Cholesterol
Metabolic Health
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HDL Cholesterol or Good Cholesterol

Our liver produces a waxy kind of fat called cholesterol that is essential to perform vital functions for our body like it promotes the secretion of bile and also helps in generating certain important hormones and vitamin D.

Let us understand in detail about HDL, why HDL good cholesterol is important for us, and how to boost the HDL cholesterol levels in our body.

What is HDL cholesterol?

High-Density Lipoprotein abbreviated as HDL cholesterol is also referred to as good cholesterol, because of its beneficial functionality. HDL cholesterol circulates in our bloodstream, performing the very important task of removing the bad cholesterol from various places, and transporting it back to the liver so that it is flushed out of our body. HDL cholesterol high levels reduce the risk of heart diseases and promote healthy heart functioning.

What Makes HDL Cholesterol so Good?

Unlike the popular belief that cholesterol is bad for us, not all types of cholesterol are bad for our bodies. On the contrary, cholesterol is a vital fat that every cell of our body needs for stability.

Each little blob of HDL cholesterol is made up of a lipoprotein ring encircling a cholesterol center. The HDL cholesterol particle is referred to as high-density because it is dense in comparison to other types of cholesterol particles.

What is the difference between HDL & LDL?

There are several types of cholesterol produced in our body, however, the most important ones are HDL and LDL cholesterol. Let’s understand these in detail:

  1. Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (LDL) -   LDL cholesterol is very often referred to as the ‘bad’ cholesterol. It forms the majority of the cholesterol in our bodies. LDL cholesterol tends to get accumulated in the heart arteries like plaque, causing them to narrow down. This results in a restricted blood supply in the heart, which ultimately may cause the individual to be at risk of developing several coronary artery diseases, which can lead to a heart attack or a stroke.
  2. High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (HDL) – HDL cholesterol on the other hand does the good cop work, where it functions towards transporting the excess cholesterol from the blood to the liver. It is in the liver that the excessive cholesterol is further broken down and flushed out of our body.
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What are optimal levels of HDL cholesterol?

 Usually, there are no symptoms associated with high levels of bad cholesterol levels in the blood. An individual only comes to know this condition after taking the lipid panel blood test. This test gives the doctor the information on the:

  • HDL levels
  • LDL levels
  • Total body cholesterol
  • Triglycerides levels

Unhealthy eating and lifestyle choices cause high LDL levels and lower HDL cholesterol in an individual. Your doctor would likely focus on lowering your LDL cholesterol and promoting HDL levels for your healthy heart functioning.

The HDL cholesterol normal range may get impacted due to several factors like gender, age, and any other pre-existing medical conditions. Here are the most standard values for HDL.

           Normal (mg/dL) Boderline (mg/dL)  High (mg/dL)  Low (mg/dL)
   Men      40 or higher        N/A          60 or higher Less than 40
Children Greater than 45       40–45       200 or higher      N/A    
  Women     50 or higher          N/A          60 or higher Less than 50

it’s important to consult your doctor once you have undergone the test, to know the next course of action.

Low HDL treatment

 Usually, treatment is offered to those individuals who have shown higher LDL levels during the lipid profile test. Drugs that lower LDL and triglyceride levels, such as prescription niacin, fibrates like gemfibrozil (Lopid), and some statins particularly simvastatin (Zocor) and rosuvastatin (Crestor) can sometimes increase the HDL levels in the body.

More than medication, it’s the lifestyle changes that have been shown to improve the HDL cholesterol range in individuals.

How can you boost your HDL cholesterol levels?

 You can alter your way of life in the following ways to raise your normal HDL cholesterol levels:

  1. Physical Exercise: Being physically active is an important part of improving your HDL cholesterol levels. Experts recommend engaging in high-intensity workouts for at least 40 minutes 3-4 times a week. This is a potential way to improve the atheroprotective functions of HDL. Apart from working out, staying active consciously like taking a walk to the grocery store, or walking your dog are a great way to stay active throughout the day.
  2. Healthy Eating Habits: Our liver already produces enough cholesterol that’s vital for the body's function, however, we tend to consume large amounts of cholesterol as part of our diet. Junk food, bakery products, and full-cream dairy products like cheese and butter are rich in saturated fats which are not good for the body. Altering your diet to reduce the intake of fatty foods, and including more fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole grains can help you boost HDL cholesterol levels.
  3. Quit Smoking: Studies have shown that smoking causes the LDL cholesterol and Triglycerides to increase and lowers the HDL levels in the body. It's best to stop smoking with an immediate effect.
  4. Reduce Alcohol Consumption: Avoiding or limiting the consumption of alcohol can also help you boost the HDL levels in the body. Alcohol use in moderation has been associated with greater HDL cholesterol levels. That means that for healthy individuals, women of all ages and men older than 65 can have up to one drink per day, while males 65 and younger can have up to two drinks per day.

What foods raise HDL the most?

Certain types of food have been associated with boosting your HDL normal range. Below are some examples that should be included in your cholesterol-friendly diet plan:

  1. Oatmeals are rich in soluble fiber that prevents bad cholesterol from being absorbed into the bloodstream.
  2. Olive oil should be your choice of oil for cooking food as they are known to be packed with good fats also known as monounsaturated fats.
  3. Apples are a very good source of pectin, which is known to reduce the LDL levels in the body and boost HDL levels.
  4. Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, and herring are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which is very good to promote healthy heart functioning.
  5. Nuts like walnuts and almonds are excellent sources of polyunsaturated fats, which are heart-healthy fats that help lower your total cholesterol ratio.
  6. Legumes and beans have proven to be another excellent source of soluble fiber that boosts the HDL levels in the body.
  7. Berries like strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are packed with antioxidants and have been related to reducing inflammation and improving cholesterol levels.
  8. Avocado is another wonder fruit that should be included in your diet to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

When should you see a doctor?

Routine screening of your blood cholesterol levels is the key. Every 4 to 6 years, people over the age of 20 should have their cholesterol levels examined. Depending on results from prior tests or the existence of specific medical conditions, your doctor could advise testing it more frequently.

Usually, there is no need to get the cholesterol screen done below the age of 20 years unless you have familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), which is a genetic disorder that causes high levels of LDL cholesterol and is passed down through generations.


Since HDL cholesterol aids in removing the LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) from our bodies, HDL is referred to as the good cholesterol. It’s important to consult your doctor on how frequently you should have your cholesterol levels checked. Additionally, your doctor may offer suggestions for raising your HDL levels through food, exercise, and other lifestyle modifications.


What happens if HDL cholesterol is low?

Lower HDL cholesterol levels have been linked to an increased chance of developing various cardiovascular diseases.

Should I worry if my HDL is high?

 HDL cholesterol is known for its function of removing other harmful cholesterol from our bloodstream. Higher HDL levels are better for our body, as they play a role in reducing the risk of heart disease.

What does high non-HDL cholesterol mean

 The high non-HDL cholesterol in the blood means that an individual is at risk of developing heart diseases which can lead to strokes, and heart attacks. For individuals who are of the age of 20 years and above, the normal non-HDL cholesterol range should be below 130 mg/dL. For individuals of age 19 years and below, the healthy range of non-HDL cholesterol should be less than 120 mg/dL.

Please note that this range may vary based on your gender, any pre-existing medical conditions, and if you have any genetic disorders.

What are normal HDL cholesterol levels?

The optimal levels of HDL cholesterol vary based on your gender and age:

  • For men, the desirable level is 60 mg/dL, while anything less than 40 mg/dL is a low level which can put an individual at risk of developing heart disease.
  • For women, the desirable or healthy HDL level is 60 mg/dL, and anything less than 50 mg/dL is considered a low level.


This website's content is provided only for educational reasons and is not meant to be a replacement for professional medical advice. Due to individual differences, the reader should contact their physician to decide whether the material is applicable to their case.