Good Cholesterol

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Good cholesterol, as it is popularly known, is called that because it helps prevent the build-up of fat in the bloodstream and plaque in artery walls. More formally it is known as high density lipoprotein, or HDL. It is "outnumbered" by bad cholesterol, or low density lipoprotein (LDL), by a factor of approximately 3 to 1.

A healthy lifestyle is the first and most important step to achieving and maintaining levels of good cholesterol: regular physical exercise, a balanced diet and weight. A heart healthy diet means eating more vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes. It means eating less saturated fats—those found in sweets, fast foods, butter—and more monounsaturated fats—those, for example, in olive, fish and peanut oil. It means drinking lots of water and reducing salt intake.

Good Cholesterol and Bad: Both Important

We speak carelessly of good and "bad" cholesterol, as if they are separable or optional. But cholesterol—composed of both lipid and protein—is critical to the body. Lipids and blood, like oil and water, do not mix. This is where the protein comes into play. Because of it, cholesterol can travel through the bloodstream to perform its very necessary role. Both good cholesterol and "bad" are necessary. They simply must be kept in the appropriate balance. If they are not, the risk of heart disease and stroke increases dramatically.

Total cholesterol should measure approximately 200 mg/dL for adults. Of this, at least 40 mg/dL should be good cholesterol. A level of 60 mg/dL is considered a heart disease preventative.

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