How to Know When Your HDL Levels Are Too Low


HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, is one of the five lipoproteins that transport cholesterol through your blood stream. HDL is considered protective to the heart as it removes unwanted cholesterol back to the liver where it is recycled or excreted. HDL also cleans the inner walls of your blood vessels and keeps them healthy, reducing your risk of developing plaque.


HDL Levels Are Too Low


What are optimal HDL values


The standard lipid profile measures the HDL-C or the cholesterol contained in HDL particles. HDL cholesterol values of 60 milligrams per deciliter are considered optimal. HDL values between 40 milligrams per deciliter and 60 milligrams per deciliter are acceptable, but there is further room for improvement.


When are your HDL levels too low


If your HDL cholesterol is less than 40 milligrams per deciliter, it is considered too low. Low HDL does not cause any overt symptoms and is only measured through a standard lipid profile or VAP testing. Therefore, it is important to get your cholesterol levels checked at least once every five years if you are over 30 years of age and a healthy individual. Get your levels tested at least once a year if you are at high risk for developing heart disease.


What are the possible causes of low HDL levels


Being overweight, abdominal obesity, smoking, unhealthy diet and lack of exercise are some of the lifestyle related causes for low HDL. Low HDL is sometimes genetic. Uncontrolled diabetes, high triglyceride levels and certain medications, such as anabolic steroids and progestin, may also be one of reasons for your low HDL levels. Studies show that a high carbohydrate diet lowers your HDL levels.


How do you increase your HDL levels


It is important to get your HDL levels up to the optimal range if you have too low or borderline HDL. Studies show that regular aerobic exercise increases your HDL cholesterol by about 5 percent. Quit smoking and lose weight if needed. If low HDL is due to uncontrolled diabetes, getting it under control with proper treatment may raise your HDL levels. If it is due to medications, talk to your doctor about changing your treatment plan. Finally, make the transition to a heart healthy balanced diet that includes healthy fats, adequate lean protein, nuts and plenty of vegetables and fruits.


The evidence on the benefits of raising HDL with medications is not very clear. Research is now showing that HDL subfractions HDL2 and HDL3 better predict cardiovascular risk. Large and buoyant HDL2 is more heart protective than HDL3. The subfractions are measured through a Vertical Auto Profile or VAP testing.

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