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HDL Cholesterol Levels

Cholesterol is carried in the blood from the intestine or liver to the organs that need it by joining up with particles called lipoproteins.

There are two types of lipoproteins:

  • Low density (LDL): transports new cholesterol from the liver to all the cells of the organism
  • High density (HDL): takes the unused cholesterol and carries it back to the liver to be stored or eliminated as bile

Referring to this interaction, cholesterol can be classified as

  • Bad cholesterol: on attaching to the LDL particle, this cholesterol affixes to the artery walls and forms atherosclerotic plaques
  • Good cholesterol: on attaching to the HDL particles, this cholesterol transports the excess cholesterol back to the liver to be eliminated

HDL cholesterol or lipoprotein is known as the good cholesterol because it seems to diminish the risk of a heart attack or stroke. This means that unlike other cholesterol levels, the higher HDL cholesterol, the better. It has been established that a HDL under 40 mg/dL significantly increases the risks of heart disease.

Genetic variations influence the HDL cholesterol levels, as well as lifestyle. HDL levels can be increased by quitting smoking, losing weight and being physically more active.

HDL cholesterol levels

  • Less than 40 mg/dL in adult men = low HDL (greater risk)
  • Less than 50 mg/dL in adult women = low HDL (greater risk)
  • 40 - 59 mg/dL = the higher the better
  • 60 and over mg/dL = high HDL (low risk)

Gene or region studied

  • 11q23.3
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