HDL (high density lipoprotein) is a substance used to transport cholesterol in the blood. Known as the "good" cholesterol, it picks up excess cholesterol dropped off by low density lipoproteins and transports it to your liver. The higher your HDL cholesterol level, the better off you are. Lifestyle changes that can raise it include losing weight, exercising, and quitting smoking. Certain medications can also help.
What Is HDL?
High density lipoprotein, or HDL for short, is a substance found within the body that is used to transport cholesterol. It is also referred to as HDL cholesterol or "good" cholesterol.
Understanding Cholesterol and Lipoproteins
In order to better understand HDL, it may be helpful to understand a little more about cholesterol and lipoproteins.
Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance found in all of your body's cells. Your body needs this 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 talk about two types. One is good and the other can be bad. You have probably heard about "good" cholesterol and "bad" cholesterol. What is interesting is that for both good cholesterol (HDL) and bad cholesterol (LDL), the cholesterol is the same; what makes it good or bad is the type of lipoprotein that it is inside.