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10 Ways to Help Boost Your "Good" Cholesterol

At the risk of sounding like a certain 20-something socialite, HDL is hot! Advances in research have brought more attention to the blood lipid (or fat) we often call "good" cholesterol.

"Good" cholesterol doesn't refer to the cholesterol we eat in food, but to the high density lipoprotein cholesterol circulating in our blood. It's one of the blood fats measured in the lipid panel blood test doctors perform. And it's the component you want more of, because increasing HDL helps lower your risk of heart disease.

Experts of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) notes that although LDL or "bad" cholesterol has gotten most of the attention, there's growing evidence that HDL plays an important role.

Facts About "Good" Cholesterol

  • HDL cholesterol normally makes up 20%-30% of your total blood cholesterol.

  • There's is evidence that HDL helps protect against the accumulation of plaques (fatty deposits) in the arteries.

  • Research suggests that a five-point drop in HDL cholesterol is linked to a 25% increase in heart disease risk.

  • In prospective studies - that is, studies that follow participants for a certain period to watch for outcomes -- HDL usually proves to be the lipid risk factor most linked to heart disease risk.

  • HDL cholesterol levels are thought to have a genetic factor in some people.

  • Women typically have higher HDL cholesterol levels than men. About a third of men and about a fifth of women have HDL levels below 40 mg/dL. Doctors consider levels of less than 40 mg/dL to be low.