Cholesterol Home > Raising HDL

High density lipoprotein is also known as "good cholesterol" or HDL. Raising your levels of HDL is recommended, because it can decrease your risk of a heart attack. The first step is to make lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, getting moderate exercise, and quitting smoking. Cholesterol medications, such as fibrates, statins, and nicotinic acid, can also help to increase levels of HDL.

An Introduction to Raising HDL

HDL, also known as "good cholesterol," is short for high density lipoprotein. HDL cholesterol is "good," because it picks up the extra cholesterol that was dropped off by the low density lipoproteins (LDLs) and brings it to your liver. This way, your liver can repackage it to use it later or just 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 and forming plaque. If your HDL cholesterol level is below 40 mg/dL, you are at substantially higher risk for heart disease. The higher your HDL cholesterol level, the better off you are. HDL levels above 60 mg/dL are considered protective against heart disease. The average HDL cholesterol level for men is about 45 mg/dL; for women, it is about 55 mg/dL.
 
The good news is that for those with low HDL, raising HDL is usually possible through lifestyle changes. Aspects of a person's lifestyle that may cause low HDL include obesity, smoking, and a lack of physical activity. As you might expect, lifestyle changes that may help in increasing HDL include:
 
  • Losing weight
  • Engaging in moderate exercise
  • Quitting smoking
  • Drinking moderate amounts of alcohol.
 
Certain medications can also raise your levels of HDL, including:
 
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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