Not all ‘Good’ Cholesterol is Healthy

Good and Bad Cholesterols

What is Good Cholesterol?

Good Cholesterol aka HDL forces LDL (bad) cholesterol to leave blood vessels and deposit back to the liver, where LDL is broken down and passed from the body. However, HDL cholesterol cannot entirely remove LDL from arteries. Only one-third to one-quarter of blood cholesterol is transported by HDL.

What is good cholesterol and what is good cholesterol level are two questions that many people are Googling for. HDL cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol), is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease as it carries cholesterol deposited in the arteries to the liver for elimination.

Two types of cholesterol

High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is known as good cholesterol because it helps remove other forms of cholesterol from the bloodstream. The higher the HDL cholesterol level the less is the risk of heart disease.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in all of your cells and has several beneficial functions, including helping to build your body’s cells. It is carried through the bloodstream in conjunction with proteins. These proteins are called lipoproteins.

This contrasts with the “bad cholesterol” aka LDL Cholesterol, which leads to accumulation of cholesterol in the arterial blood vessels and increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Although drugs that lower LDL reduces cardiovascular risk, those that increase HDL have not been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of heart disease. This paradox questioned the relationship between HDL and cardiovascular risk, and researchers are now studying the characteristics of these particles of HDL.

  • Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) can eventually build up in the walls of your blood vessels and constrict the channels. Occasionally, a clot can form and become stuck in the narrowed space, causing a heart attack or stroke. For this reason, LDL is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol.
  • High-density lipoprotein cholesterol. HDL collects excess cholesterol in the blood and carries it back to the liver, where it is broken down and removed from the body.

Good cholesterol levels

If you have high LDL and low HDL, your doctor will likely focus first on lowering LDL cholesterol. Drugs known as statins – such as atorvastatin (Lipitor) and simvastatin (Zocor) – are the most common medications for high LDL.

Is good cholesterol good?

A study conducted by the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM), published in the journal Metabolism, Clinical and Experimental, has now shown that not all good cholesterol is healthy. Researchers from CIBER on Cardiovascular Diseases (CIBERCV), CIBER on Obesity and Nutrition (CIBEROBN) and CIBER on Epidemiology and Public Health (CIBERESP), as well as others from Hospital Clínic-IDIBAPS, IDIBELL, the Hospital de la Santa A this study The Creu i Sant Pau Research Institute and the University Hospital of Zaragoza also took part.
In the work, the researchers analyzed the genetic characteristics that determine the size of the HDL particles and then studied their relationship with the risk of myocardial infarction. The conclusion is that genetic characteristics linked to the generation of large particles of good cholesterol are directly associated with a greater risk of heart attack, while characteristics linked to small particles of good cholesterol are linked to a lower risk of a heart attack.

Cholesterol levels

“There is a positive causal relationship between the size of HDL particles and the risk of heart attack, so although we have to increase the levels of good cholesterol in the blood, they must always be small particles,” explains the study’s principal investigator, Dr. Robert Elosua, a researcher at the Hospital del Mar-IMIM, CIBERCV, and the University of the Vic-Central University of Catalonia (UVic-UCC).

The HDL particles are more effective at transferring cholesterol to the liver so that it can be removed. “If anything we should do about good cholesterol, it is to upsurge the number of small parts of its molecule that sufficiently accomplish the purpose of removing cholesterol, particles that in fact transfer it to the liver for removal, and prevent it from accumulating in the arteries and causing cardiovascular disease.”, says Dr. lvaro Ernaes, a researcher for IDIBAPS and CIBEROBN.
There are currently no medications that raise HDL levels and lower the risk of heart disease. “This research proves the importance of the new and possible healing targets in the field of cardiovascular conditions, as well as numerous genes linked to qualitative characteristics of HDL particles that may benefit to the prevention of cardiovascular diseases,” concludes Dr. Albert Prats, a researcher in epidemiology and cardiovascular disease. vascular genetics. Hospital del Mar IMIM research team and first author of the study.

What is a good cholesterol level?

The level of both good or bad cholesterols counted in milligrams (mg) of HDL for each deciliter (dL) of blood. When it comes to HDL, higher numbers are better while for LDL the lower the better.

To some degree, folks who have naturally advanced good cholesterol levels are at lower risk for cardiovascular diseases, heart arrest, and stroke. It is less clear whether the same benefit is true for people who raise their HDL levels with medications.
Lifestyle changes known to increase HDL levels, such as moving more, quitting smoking, or improving diet, have been shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks. However, drugs that specifically raise HDL levels failed to reduce the rate of heart attacks.
Oddly, people who naturally have extremely high HDL levels – above 100 mg / dL (2.5 mmol / L) – appear to be at increased risk for heart disease. This can be caused by genetic factors.

Your lifestyle matters to keep good cholesterol within normal limits

HDL levels are usually lower in people with metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions that include obesity, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar.
In addition to weight loss, increased physical activity can lower triglycerides, the most common type of body fat, while increasing HDL levels. The benefits can be seen by engaging in moderate-intensity aerobic exercise for just 60 minutes per week.
When it comes to diet, try to avoid trans fats as they can raise LDL and lower HDL cholesterol. Foods made with added fat, such as cakes and cookies, often contain trans fats, like most fried foods and some margarine. Limit your intake of saturated fat from meat and fatty dairy products.
If you are a smoker, quit it. Smoking lowers HDL levels, especially in women, and raises LDL and triglyceride levels.

Six ways to increase good cholesterol without pills

Practice more. Activities like brisk walking will increase HDL levels, but aerobic exercise – the ones that really increase your heart rate – seems to have the added benefit of encouraging the anti-inflammatory effects of HDL, even if your levels are not rising very much.

Eat “good” fats. Trans fat lowers HDL, and saturated fat appears to weaken some of its positive qualities. The monounsaturated fats in olive oil and canola oil lower LDL levels without negatively affecting HDL. Omega-3 fats increase HDL.

Eat whole grains. High-carbohydrate diets often recommended for the prevention of heart disease reduce HDL levels, although this adverse effect is mitigated if you eat whole grains instead of refined carbohydrates.

Lose weight. Losing weight, whether from diet or exercise, increases HDL.

Quit smoking. Smokers have lower HDL levels than non-smokers. Levels bounce up when people quit smoking.

Limit alcohol consumption. You can drink, but only in moderation.  Alcohol increases HDL, and the more people drink, the more it increases. Alcoholics tend to have good numbers of HDL. Of course, the side effects of high alcohol consumption preclude any benefit from high HDL.


Your cholesterol levels are an important measure of heart health. For HDL, higher levels are better.

Philadelphia Holistic Clinic lead by an internationally recognized medical doctor and naturopathic practitioner can help you to fix HDL levels without using pharmaceutical drugs. To schedule, your first appointment with Dr. Tsan contact our clinic (267) 284-3085 or use our online scheduling application.

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