High density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) has always been labelled as the ‘good’ one. HDL-C carries LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where LDL is broken down and passed from the body. But HDL-C doesn’t completely eliminate LDL-C.
Asian Indians have a higher prevalence of atherogenic dyslipidemia than western population, which includes low levels of HDL-C. This is due to lifestyle habits like physical inactivity, low exercise and poor-quality diet. HDL-C is likely to be lower in smokers, in overweight/obese persons and sedentary persons. HDL-C tends to be higher in lean, active persons and in non-smokers.
A study showed that there is a much higher chance of achieving high levels of HDL-C in active persons than inactive ones. In men, high HDL-C was associated with greater duration and intensity of physical activity, while in women, physical activity of smaller intensity and shorter duration was also associated with this change.
A minimum level of 40 mg/dl HDL-C is beneficial. Anything less than 40 is considered to be a risk factor for heart disease. A reading greater than 60 mg/dl is desirable.
Regular exercise and daily physical activity, along with eating healthy and not smoking helps to increase HDL-C levels, which is cardio-protective. Removing trans fats from the menu, reducing the intake of total fats (especially saturated fats), reducing sugar and sugar-containing foods & beverages, and avoiding refined carbohydrates can help to maintain good levels of HDL-C. It’s important to remember that HDL-C is not the only factor which determines the risk for heart disease. There are several other influencing factors. Consult your physician if you need to understand your lipid profile better.
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