High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is known as the “good” cholesterol because it helps remove cholesterol buildup in your bloodstream. Higher HDL cholesterol levels are often associated with a lower risk of heart disease compared to lower HDL cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol is a fat-like, waxy substance found in all cells that can help your body make cell membranes, hormones, and vitamin D. HDL cholesterol is carried through the bloodstream attached to proteins called lipoproteins.
There are two kinds of lipoproteins, which are:
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. High LDL cholesterol can eventually build up inside the walls of blood vessels and narrow the passageways. Sometimes, clots may form and get stuck in the narrowed spaces — causing a heart attack or stroke. This is why LDL cholesterol is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol.
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. HDL cholesterol circulates excess cholesterol in the blood and carries it back to the liver where it is broken down and excreted from the body.
If you have high LDL cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol levels, your doctor will try to lower your LDL cholesterol first. The statin medications, namely Atorvastatin (Lipitor) and simvastatin (Zocor) are commonly used to treat high LDL cholesterol.
Benefits of HDL Cholesterol
HDL cholesterol works like a vacuum cleaner for the “bad” cholesterol in your body. When HDL Cholesterol is at a healthy level in your blood, it removes extra cholesterol and plaque buildup in your arteries and then sends it to your liver. The liver expels it from your body. If this system in your body runs well and smoothly, it will help reduce your risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
HDL Cholesterol Test
High cholesterol levels are associated with hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and heart disease. When the cholesterol level in your blood increases and you do not have enough HDL cholesterol, it is likely that the cholesterol will build up in the walls of blood vessels. This buildup, called plaque, may narrow your arteries and make them stiffer — leading to blood flow blockage.
An HDL cholesterol test, also known as a lipid panel, is used to determine if a patient is at risk for heart disease and helps provide the diagnosis and decisions regarding the appropriate treatment based on the patient’s risk limits, such as moderate risk or high risk. A cholesterol test may also include total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.
The lipid panel results are considered along with other known risk factors for heart disease. This is done to determine the appropriate medical procedure and follow-up treatment. Based on the results and other risk factors, treatment options may lead to lifestyle changes such as diet, smoking, alcohol consumption and exercise.
An HDL cholesterol test can also be used to monitor whether medications are working effectively to lower cholesterol levels in your body.
Cost Estimation for HDL Cholesterol Test
The cost for an HDL cholesterol test procedure may vary — depending on the hospital and clinic that provides the procedure. Each hospital and clinic usually offers a variety of service packages based on your diagnostic needs as well as financial ability.
For more details regarding the cost for an HDL cholesterol procedure, contact Smarter Health.
Pre-HDL Cholesterol Test
Prior to the cholesterol test, your doctor may recommend you to fast 9 to 12 hours before the blood draw procedure. Your blood sample will be taken the next morning to be tested and measured in the laboratory. Your doctor will also record your body weight, diet, physical activity, and history of diseases such as cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
During HDL Cholesterol Test
An HDL cholesterol test is similar to any blood tests in general. Your doctor or nurse will perform the blood draw by injecting a vein in your arm or the back of your hand.
First, your doctor will clean the skin over the vein with an antiseptic. Next, your doctor puts an elastic band around the arm that blocks the blood flow — causing your blood vessels to slightly protrude. Then, your doctor will insert a small needle into your vein and store your blood sample in a sterile bottle.
Post-HDL Cholesterol Test
After the cholesterol test procedure, you may feel pain at the injection site — ranging from a throbbing sensation to moderate pain. You will be allowed to go home and return to your normal activities shortly after the test. If your doctor recommends the test, your doctor may receive the results for further treatment.
Understanding Your HDL Cholesterol Test Result
After conducting the test, your doctor will read and explain to you the test results. Your test result will be described in units of milligrams per deciliter (mg / dL). Ideal cholesterol levels are:
- Total cholesterol: below 200 mg / dL (the lower the better).
- LDL: 70-130 mg / dL (the lower the better).
- HDL: 40-60 mg / dL (the higher the better).
- Triglycerides: below 150 mg / dL (the lower the better).
Foods to Boost HDL Cholesterol
If the test results show low HDL and high LDL levels, it is necessary to make lifestyle changes to boost good HDL cholesterol levels. This helps reduce your risk of diseases such as heart attacks and strokes.
You may consume the following foods to boost HDL cholesterol:
Olive oil is considered one of the healthiest fats. It is also easy to get. A study found that olive oil is the only source of monounsaturated fat that can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Other studies have also shown that one of the heart-healthy effects of olive oil is to increase HDL cholesterol.
Olive oil contains an antioxidant called polyphenols. Extra virgin olive oil has more polyphenols than refined olive oil — although the amount may vary from brand to brand.
Low Carbohydrate or Ketogenic Dietary Patterns
A low-carbohydrate diet provides a number of health benefits, including weight loss and lowered blood sugar levels. This diet has also been known to increase HDL cholesterol in people who have obesity problems or diabetes. Apart from increasing HDL cholesterol, a low-carb diet can also help reduce triglycerides and increase several other risk factors for heart disease.
Research has shown that coconut oil can help reduce appetite, increase metabolic rate and improve brain health. Some people may be concerned about the heart-health effects of coconut oil due to its high saturated fat content
However, it seems that coconut oil is actually quite healthy for your heart. Coconut oil may increase your HDL cholesterol more than many other types of fat. In addition, coconut oil can also increase the ratio of LDL cholesterol to HDL cholesterol — which helps reduce your risk of heart disease.
You are recommended to consume 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of coconut oil per day to reap the healthy benefits of coconut oil.
The omega-3 fats in fish offer major benefits for heart health, including reducing inflammation and improving the function of the cells lining your arteries. Several studies have shown that fish and fish oil can help increase HDL cholesterol levels
Lifestyle Changes to Boost HDL Cholesterol
The following are several habits and activities that can boost your HDL cholesterol:
Regular exercise is important for heart health. Research has shown that many types of physical exercise are effective at increasing HDL cholesterol, such as high-intensity and aerobic exercises. However, the biggest increases in HDL typically occur when you are doing high-intensity exercise. Low-intensity exercise also appears to increase the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capacity of HDL.
Smoking increases the risk of numerous health problems, including heart disease and lung cancer. Cigarette smoking is also associated with low levels of HDL cholesterol. Several studies have found that quitting smoking helps increase HDL levels.