HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, is referred to as the "good cholesterol." Also known as "HDL cholesterol," the good form of cholesterol picks up excess cholesterol dropped off by low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) and transports it to your liver. You want this type of cholesterol to be as high as possible -- an HDL level of 60 mg/dL or higher is considered protective against heart disease. You can raise your HDL levels by losing weight, exercising, and quitting smoking. Certain medications can also help increase HDL.
High-density lipoprotein, or HDL for short, is also known as the "good cholesterol." HDL, a substance found within the body, is used to transport cholesterol.
In order to understand why HDL is known as the "good cholesterol," it may be helpful to know a little more about cholesterol and lipoproteins.
Cholesterol is a soft and waxy substance found in all of your body's cells. Your body needs some cholesterol in order to work properly. However, in order to get to all of your cells, cholesterol needs to travel through the bloodstream. But because cholesterol is a fat, it separates from the blood similar to the way that oil separates from water.
To keep this from happening, proteins form a shell around the cholesterol, making a "cholesterol complex." It is then released into the bloodstream and travels to where it needs to go.
A protein that is linked to cholesterol to form this cholesterol complex is called a "lipoprotein." There are several different types of lipoproteins. When talking about cholesterol, though, we normally focus on two: HDL (the good cholesterol) and LDL (the bad cholesterol). When it comes to HDL and LDL, the cholesterol is the same; what makes it good or bad is the type of lipoprotein that it is inside.