High density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) also referred as ‘good cholesterol' is positively associated with healthy heart condition. A number of research reports indicate that the incidence of cardiovascular disease (CHD) is inversely correlated with blood levels of high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL).

Often, low HDL cholesterol level (less than 40 mg per deciliter in men and less than 50 mg per deciliter in women) is associated also with cardiovascular risk factors, such as diabetes, hypertension, or both, which further increase risk.

High density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) alleviates cardiovacular disease through a variety of roles it plays. Some of the roles high density lipoprotein cholesterol include: (1) carrying excess serum cholesterol to the liver, reverse cholesterol transport, where the cholesterol is used for lipoprotein synthesis or removed in the bile salts; (2) reduces the oxidative modification of low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL). Furthermore, HDL has also been reported to inhibit the generation of reactive oxygen species, free-radicals, and boost nitric oxide (NO) level. HDL-cholesterol has also antioxidant property.

High density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) reduces a number of inflammatory events that may cause atherosclerotic plaque and consequently ischemia. It also inhibits platelet activation and aggregation.

How to Raise HDL Cholesterol Level

An increase in HDL-cholesterol by 1 mg per deciliter may reduce the incidence of clinical cardiovascular disease (CHD) events by 2-3%. Serum HDL cholesterol can be raised by a change of lifestyle. For example, regular physical exercise, aerobic, increases the HDL cholesterol level by 3 to 9 percent in healthy, sedentary persons. The effect of physical exercise is on raising serum HDL cholesterol level is more pronounced when it is frequent and low-intensity (e.g., five 30-minute sessions per week vs. three 60-minute sessions). There is little evidence that walking significantly increases HDL cholesterol levels. Increase in HDL cholesterol level may occur as little as eight weeks of regular exercise, although changes may not be evident for two years.

There is strong evidence that with an increase in obesity, HDL cholesterol level is reduced. Studies on the effect of weight loss on HDL cholesterol levels demonstrated that the HDL cholesterol levels increased by 0.35 mg per deciliter per kilogram of weight reduction in subjects who achieved a stabilized, reduced weight but decreased by 0.27 mg per deciliter in subjects during active weight loss.

Moderate alcohol intake raises HDL cholesterol levels. Analysis of several studies showed that consumption of 30 g (1 fluid oz) of alcohol per day, regardless of the kind of alcohol, increased HDL cholesterol levels by a mean of 4 mg per deciliter.

Since cigarette smoking is associated with reduced HDL cholesterol, quitting smoking is also likely to increase serum HDL cholesterol.

Several classes of medications, such as niacin, fibrates and statins increase HDL cholesterol levels. These medications also lower triglycerides and LDL cholesterol levels.


LDL cholesterol related links:
"How low should LDL cholesterol be lowered?"
LDL cholesterol lowering and atherosclerosis

Fat related content
Fat: List of Food high in total fat and saturated fatty acids
Unsaturated fat: Food high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat content?

Cholesterol in food related content:

Cholesterol: benefits and how to raise HDL cholesterol level
List of cholesterol free foods
Cholesterol content in foods of plant-origin
Cholesterol in beef, chicken, pork, lamb comparison
Cholesterol content in seafoods (tuna, salmon, shrimp)
Cookbooks for low cholesterol diet



M. Dominique Ashen, Ph.D., C.R.N.P., and Roger S. Blumenthal, M.D. Low HDL Cholesterol Levels. The New England Journal of Medicine, 353(1):1252-1260

Belinda A Cutri, Neil J Hime and Stephen J Nicholls. 2006. High-density lipoproteins: an emerging target in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Cell Research, 16:799-808.