Normal HDL - Understanding and Managing Cholesterol Levels

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance produced naturally by the body and found in the cells. The body needs cholesterol for several essential functions. However, it is also possible to consume cholesterol via dietary sources, thereby shifting the balance in our bodies. A certain amount of cholesterol is fine but if it exceeds the desired quantity, it can clog our arteries and may lead to cardiovascular diseases, i.e. heart problems.

Cholesterol travels through the bloodstream via lipoproteins. There are two kinds of lipoproteins - low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). HDL can be classified as 'good' cholesterol, whereas LDL is the 'bad' kind. Different blood tests can be done to detect the two levels. This article explains normal HDL, LDL and overall cholesterol level.

Normal HDL

The normal HDL level should be more than 40 mg/dL for men and more than 50 mg/dL for women. High levels of HDL or 'good' cholesterol (60 mg/dL or above) are recommended because HDL is known to protect from heart diseases.

On the other hand, low levels of HDL, less than 40 mg/dL for men and less than 50 mg/dL for women, can do the opposite, i.e. increase the risk of heart disease. You can regulate HDL levels by making dietary changes and indulging in physical activity.

Warning

Given the tricky nature of cholesterol, it is advisable to have the levels checked on a regular basis. The blood test to screen cholesterol levels is called a lipid profile. Health experts suggest getting cholesterol levels checked once every five years for people over the age of twenty. Risks increase with age and men over the age of 35 and women over the age of 45 should get checked over frequent intervals.

Understanding Other Cholesterol Indicators

If you are in the United States, your test report will show your cholesterol levels in milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL). Canada and some European countries measure cholesterol in millimoles (mmol) per liter (L) of blood.

There are certain broad categories that determine whether the numbers from your blood test/lipid profile fall in the healthy/unhealthy range.

1. Total Cholesterol

The total blood cholesterol is made up of HDL, LDL and triglycerides. A combined cholesterol level of below 200 is considered to be good.

Total Cholesterol Level

In U.S. and some other countries

Canada and most of Europe

Interpretation

240 mg/dL and above

Above 6.2 mmol/L

High

200-239 mg/dL

5.2-6.2 mmol/L

Borderline high

Below 200 mg/dL

Below 5.2 mmol/L

Desirable

2. LDL (Bad) Cholesterol

LDL is called 'bad' cholesterol for a reason. When cholesterol is being transported through the body, the LDL component tends to deposit on the walls of arteries. As more LDL cholesterol collects, it can create a plaque that can ultimately block the artery, leading to cardiovascular diseases.

It is this component of your cholesterol that needs to be monitored regularly. Health experts suggest against high levels of LDL because that can lead to plaque formation, which ultimately means severe heart related health issues.

LDL (Bad) Cholesterol

In U.S. and some other countries

Canada and most of Europe

Interpretation

190 mg/dL and above

Above 4.9 mmol/L

Very high

160-189 mg/dL

4.1-4.9 mmol/L

High

130-159 mg/dL

3.4-4.1 mmol/L

Borderline high

100-129 mg/dL

2.6-3.3 mmol/L

Near ideal

Below 100 mg/dL

Below 2.6 mmol/L

Ideal for people at risk of heart disease

Below 70 mg/dL

Below 1.8 mmol/L

Ideal for people at very high risk of heart disease

3. HDL (Good) Cholesterol

HDL Cholesterol

In U.S. and some other countries

Canada and most of Europe

Interpretation

60 mg/dL and above

1.6 mmol/L and above

Best

40-49 mg/dL (men)
50-59 mg/dL (women)

1-1.3 mmol/L (men)
1.3-1.5 mmol/L (women)

Better

Below 40 mg/dL (men)
Below 50 mg/dL (women)

Below 1 mmol/L (men)
Below 1.3 mmol/L (women)

Poor

4. Triglycerides

The third component forming the cholesterol, triglycerides are the most common type of fat in the body. Triglycerides provide energy but high levels can increase your risk of heart diseases. The breakdown is as follows:

Triglycerides

In U.S. and some other countries

Canada and most of Europe

Interpretation

500 mg/dL and above

Above 5.6 mmol/L and above

Very high

200-499 mg/dL

2.3-5.6 mmol/L

High

150-199 mg/dL

1.7-2.2 mmol/L

Borderline high

Below 150 mg/dL

Below 1.7 mmol/L

Desirable

How to Raise HDL Level

It requires some dietary and lifestyle changes to keep your cholesterol levels in check. Watch a video to learn how to lower triglycerides and raise HDL, then read on for more:

 

Eat more monounsaturated fats and soluble fiber

Eat oats, fruits, vegetables, and legumes to reduce LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol. You should also consume monounsaturated fats such as canola oil, avocado oil or olive oil increase HDL cholesterol levels without increasing the total cholesterol.

Avoid trans fat

This is a bit tough to accomplish as trans fatty acids are a part of most prepared food. But if you are able to cut it out, you will find a significant improvement in your cholesterol levels. Eat healthy greens and organic foods.

Other dietary tips

 

Cranberry juice can increase HDL levels. Fish and other foods containing omega-3 fatty acids and calcium supplements in postmenopausal women can also be helpful.

Do aerobic exercises

Walking, jogging or bike riding are the simplest ways to keep a check on your cholesterol rate. Any physical exercise that increases your heart rate for 20 to 30 minutes at a time is beneficial. Experts suggest an increased duration of exercise, as opposed to high-level intense activity.

Lose extra pounds

If you are overweight, with most weight stored the abdominal area, then your risk factor is high. Take measures to lose weight and you will automatically curtail LDL.

Quit smoking

Tobacco raises HDL levels. Quit smoking and you will notice an increase in your HDL levels.

Stop drinking

One to two drinks a day can boost good cholesterol. More than that and you are opening yourself to a completely different range of health issues.

 

 
 
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