Good Cholesterol, At What Point Does ‘Good’ Become Bad For You?
Good cholesterol removes harmful bad cholesterol from where it doesn’t belong. High levels reduce the risk for heart disease, but low levels increase the risk. Good cholesterol is surrounded by a high density protein (HDL). The HDL cholesterol particle is dense compared to other types of cholesterol particles, so it’s called high-density.
Cholesterol is an essential fat and provides stability in every cell of the body. To travel through the bloodstream, it has to be transported by helper molecules called lipoproteins.
There are 3 basic benefits of good cholesterol:
- It scavenges and removes bad cholesterol (LDL)
- It reduces, reuses, and recycles LDL cholesterol by transporting it to the liver where it is reprocessed.
- Acts as a maintenance crew for the inner walls of blood vessels. Damage to the inner walls is the first step in atherosclerosis, which causes heart attacks and strokes. HDL scrubs the wall clean and keeps it healthy.
Good Cholesterol: What Is A Good Level?
A blood test provides the answer:
- Cholesterol levels greater than 60 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) are high. That’s good.
- Cholesterol levels less than 40 mg/dL are low. That’s not so good.
If your good cholesterol is low, here are several actions you can take to boost it:
- Exercise . Do aerobic exercise for 20-40 minutes several days of the week,
- Quit smoking . Tobacco smoke lowers HDL,
- Maintain a healthy weight. It increases HDL levels and reduces risk for heart disease and other chronic health conditions.
Cholesterol testing should be done at least once every every five years; more often for people who suffer from chronic health problems.
Good Cholesterol: When “Good’ Actually Becomes Bad
While high levels of HDL prtoect your health by flushing bad (LDL) cholesterol from the blood into the liver and out of the body, little is known about people with very high levels of HDL. Recent reports suggest that high (HDL) levels can actually raise the risk of premature death, especially in seniors.
Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta, examined the link between ‘good’ cholesterol levels and the risk of heart attack and cardiovascular death in 6,000 individuals aged 63+ years. They were followed over the course of 4 years, and grouped according to their HDL scores.
Results showed that participants whose good cholesterol levels were 41–60 mg/dL were least likely to have a heart attack or die from it.
However, for people with very high levels (higher than 60 mg/dL), the risk of heart attacks and death increased by 50% compared to the control group.
According to Dr. Allard Ratick who led this research study, these results contribute to a steadily growing body of evidence that very high HDL levels may accelerate rather than protect against heart attacks.
The reasons remain unclear at this time, but he speculates that very high ‘good’ cholesterol levels ( 60+ mg/dL) may actually be dysfunctional and cause a cardiovascular imbalance.
As in other areas of life, too much of a good thing may actually be bad for us. It’s always a good idea to be vigilant.