HDL stands for high density lipoprotein and is known as good cholesterol. HDL helps to remove cholesterol from the blood by taking it to the liver to be removed. A low level of circulating HDL can mean you are at a higher risk of a cardiovascular event.
HDL has protective effects for the heart and blood vessels. It works like a scavenger by transporting excess cholesterol from the arteries to the liver. HDL is therefore a good biomarker for predicting cardiovascular risk.
You may not have any specific symptoms if your HDL levels are low. Instead, there may be some factors which put you at a greater risk of heart problems, including:
A healthy lifestyle is a good way to keep your cholesterol levels under control. Exercise is a good way to increase your HDL levels. Giving up smoking, increasing your unsaturated fat intake and lowering your alcohol consumption are all beneficial to improving your HDL.
You should try to incorporate more unsaturated fats into your diet. This type of fat is good for you and helps to reduce cholesterol levels. Some foods which are naturally high in unsaturated fats are:
If you need to snack, fill up on fruit and vegetables which are low in fat and full of nutrients. Keep your alcohol consumption low and within the recommended guidelines.
Exercise is key to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels. You should exercise for at least 30 minutes per day, 5 times weekly to maintain a healthy lifestyle and reduce cholesterol levels.
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 Rohatgi, A., Khera, A and Berry, J, D et al. (2014). HDL Cholesterol Efflux Capacity and Incident Cardiovascular Events. The New England Journal of Medicine: 371, pp 2383-2393.
 Rader, D, J and Hovingh, G, K. (2014). HDL and Cardiovascular Disease. The Lancet: 384, pp 618-625
 Mann, S., Beedie, C and Jimenez, A. (2013). Differential Effects of Aerobic Exercise, Resistance Training and Combined Exercise Modalities on Cholesterol and the Lipid Profile: Review, Synthesis and Recommendations. Sports Med: 44, pp 211-221.