What is HDL cholesterol?
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is produced by your liver and makes up part of your total cholesterol level. It’s often called ‘good cholesterol’ as it helps protect against heart disease.
What is its function?
HDL is one of the major forms of lipoproteins — these carry cholesterol through your blood to where it's needed.
HDL cholesterol helps return LDL cholesterol from your arteries to your liver, where it can be removed from your body. This stops plaque from building up on the walls of your arteries, protecting you from heart disease.
If your HDL cholesterol is too low it can actually increase your risk of heart disease. Low levels in women are also linked to depression.
What can cause it to change?
Low HDL cholesterol levels often coincide with high triglycerides and high LDL cholesterol levels. In most cases, this is caused by:
- a poor diet
- being overweight
- lack of exercise
- uncontrolled diabetes
The medication Metamizole might affect your HDL cholesterol levels.
Very low HDL cholesterol levels are sometimes caused by a genetic condition called hypoalphalipoproteinemia but this is very rare.
What factors within my control could influence it?
Most of the things that can help raise your HDL cholesterol levels can also lower your LDL cholesterol levels. This includes:
- exercising regularly — aim for at least 150 minutes moderate-intensity or 75 minutes high-intensity exercise a week
- eating high-fibre foods, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- eating foods rich in omega-3s like oily fish
- losing weight if you're overweight
- avoiding drinking too much alcohol