High levels of "good," or HDL, cholesterol can significantly decrease a person's risk for heart disease. According to the latest guidelines, a level of 60 mg/dL and above is considered "high." In most cases, the cause is unknown, but it does seem to run in families. High HDL levels can also be caused by certain cholesterol medications, aerobic exercise, and regular alcohol consumption.
High HDL cholesterol is not a medical disease. Instead, it is a condition that, for those fortunate enough to have it, significantly decreases the chances of developing or dying from heart disease.
High-density lipoprotein, or HDL for short, is a substance found in the blood. It is also known as the "good cholesterol." HDL cholesterol is "good" because it picks up the extra cholesterol that was dropped off by LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and brings it to your liver. This way, your liver can repackage it to use it later or simply get rid of it.
Because HDL helps remove cholesterol from the blood, it can help keep cholesterol from building up on the walls of the arteries (known as plaque). Plaque buildup can lead to a condition called atherosclerosis, which is narrowing of the arteries. Narrowing of the arteries can lead to heart disease.
(Click Cholesterol and Heart Disease for more information.)
HDL cholesterol removes excess LDL cholesterol, so it is good to have high HDL levels in your system and low levels of LDL. Think of "H" for "high" to help you remember this. And "L" stands for low, which is a way to remember that you want low levels of LDL.