HDL cholesterol is the "good," or "healthy" cholesterol. HDL lipoproteins
carry less cholesterol and triglyceride; instead they contain mostly protein.
HDL lipoproteins can ‘pick up’ LDL and transport it back to the liver where it
can be ‘repackaged’ into something else, or destroyed and gotten rid of. HDL
does not contribute to plaque formation. Recommended HDL levels differ for men
and women. Estrogen increases HDL levels, offering some additional cardiac
protection prior to menopause. For women, HDL less than 50mg/dl is considered
low, increasing the risk for heart disease. Low HDL levels (less than 50 mg/dl)
seem to be a stronger risk indicator for women than men. HDL levels of 60mg/dl
or higher are considered "cardio protective" because they lower the risk of
HDL cholesterol level
|Less than 50 mg/dl
||Low; increased risk for heart disease
|50 – 59 mg/dl
|60 mg/dl and higher
||Best; helps protect from heart disease
Obesity, sedentary lifestyle, cigarette smoking, high triglyceride levels and
androgenic steroids can lower HDL. Reversing those factors by losing
getting regular exercise, quitting smoking, reducing
triglycerides, and stopping androgenic steroids have all been shown to raise
HDL levels. A diet that includes omega-3-fatty acids helps raise HDL.
Moderate consumption of alcohol, particularly red wine raises HDL, but is not
recommended as treatment because of other risks associated with alcohol
consumption such as liver damage, hypertension, and high triglyceride levels.
Estrogen also raises HDL, but hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is not
recommended because of the other medical risks associated with HRT.
During the perimenopausal period there is usually a decrease in HDL and an
increase in total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides. This unfortunate change in
lipids is more pronounced in women who gain weight. Healthy eating and regular
exercise are important activities always, including during the perimenopausal