Cholesterol: Up with the Good…But How?

76746889Once upon a time, cholesterol seemed easy: high cholesterol was bad, and you did everything you could – exercise, lose weight, eat a low-fat diet – to lower it.

Even then, of course, it was known that one kind of cholesterol, HDL or high-density lipoprotein, is actually good for cardiovascular health and should be kept high. But most of the lifestyle measures that lower LDL, or bad cholesterol, also tend to raise HDL as well.

“With the introduction of cholesterol-lowering medications, the story became more complex,” according to Michael Jones, DO, a board-certified family medicine physician with Agnesian HealthCare in Waupun. “The best of these medications tend to be very effective at lowering LDL, but not so effective at increasing HDL. And a few individuals who succeed in getting their LDL cholesterol to an acceptable level through drugs still have heart attacks, probably because their HDL is not high enough.”

As a result, scientists continue to study new drugs and combinations that might be even more effective than existing ones by raising the “good” while lowering the “bad.”

The benefits of high HDL have been well-established. Observational studies have for decades shown that individuals with high levels of HDL (40 mg/dL or higher for a male, 50 mg/dL for a female) live longer and are less likely to have a heart attack than individuals with lower levels.

Studies show associations rather than cause and effect.

“Major ways of increasing HDL are weight loss, exercise, moderate alcohol consumption and not smoking,” according to Richard McMahon, DO, a board-certified family medicine physician with Agnesian HealthCare in Waupun. “In studies, men who lived to age 85 were also more likely than other subjects to be of normal weight and to have these heart-healthy habits.”

See the full article in Living In Good Health Spring/Summer 2013 Newsletter.

About Danelle Phillips

Interactive Marketing Specialist at Agnesian HealthCare
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