HDL cholesterol is often referred to as "good" cholesterol. It is a beneficial high-density lipoprotein. HDL lipoproteins are responsible for removing cholesterol from peripheral tissues, blood vessel walls, and other lipid fractions, thus preventing atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases. A normal level of HDL cholesterol protects our body from cholesterol accumulation in the vessels, reducing the risk of many diseases, such as:
- heart attack
- cardiovascular diseases
- coronary heart disease
- development of atherosclerosis
- circulatory system diseases
High HDL cholesterol levels
Despite the fact that HDL cholesterol is known as beneficial to our body, a high level of it can be a cause for concern and may indicate changes occurring in our body. The most common reasons for high HDL cholesterol levels include:
- In case the test results for other cholesterol fractions show no abnormalities, high levels of good cholesterol indicate an adaptation to physical exercise (applies to individuals who engage in high levels of physical activity).
- A high level of HDL cholesterol can indicate problems with hormonal balance: the functioning of the pituitary gland and stimulation of adrenal hormone production (especially when HDL is higher than LDL).
- Inherited hypercholesterolemia - which most commonly affects changes in the entire lipid profile. A high concentration of HDL can be seen, as well as excess LDL cholesterol, and other changes such as high total cholesterol fraction levels and abnormal triglycerides.
- Sudden infections (parasitic, viral, bacterial).
- Excess cholesterol from blood vessels (HDL) may indicate a large number of inflammatory states in the body. The body must produce a large amount of HDL to effectively remove harmful compounds from arteries to the liver.
Low HDL cholesterol levels
While high levels of HDL cholesterol in the blood pose a risk for many diseases, too low levels of HDL have their own causes. The most common reasons for low levels of HDL cholesterol include:
- A diet rich in harmful saturated fats, with a simultaneous lack of healthy fatty acids.
- Stress and high levels of inflammation in the body, with a lack of antioxidants.
- Excessive alcohol consumption.
- Long-term infection that is overloading the liver and intestines (e.g. Chlamydia pneumoniae or H. pylori).
- Autoimmune and chronic diseases, in which liver burden and inflammation are long-lasting.
- HDL levels are low when the body's nutritional status is low (long-term limitation of meal intake, hunger, diseases) - particularly dangerous are states of malnutrition and exhaustion of the body.
- The level of good cholesterol in the blood significantly decreases as a result of cancer.
The recommended HDL cholesterol values are a minimum of:
- 40 mg/dL (1.0 mmol/L) for men
- 50 mg/dL (1.3-1.5 mmol/L) for women
Testing the HDL cholesterol level can protect us from many serious diseases, such as the development of atherosclerotic plaques and heart attacks. However, it is important to properly prepare for the test, and measuring only the HDL fraction is not enough for a correct assessment of our health status. The correct LDL to HDL ratio, total cholesterol level, and triglycerides are all important factors to consider for a comprehensive lipid profile.
To take the test, you should fast for 12 hours prior to the blood draw and follow a light, low-fat diet that does not contain animal fats. It is also recommended to avoid stressful situations the day before the test.