Written by Helen Glenn Court
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HDL is the acronym for high density lipoproteins, one of the two types of cholesterol found in our bodies. It is called the "good cholesterol" because it helps prevent build-up of the other cholesterol, LDL, on the walls of our arteries. Overall, you want more rather than less HDL in your bloodstream. Nonetheless, your HDL levels will always be only about a third what the LDL levels are.

What can you do about it? A great deal. Stay active, exercise aerobically at least several times a week. Eat a balanced diet heavier on vegetables, fruits, fish and whole grains and lighter on the saturated fats found in whole milk products such as butter and most ice-cream and red meats. Stay away from junk food and fast food restaurants. If you smoke, stop. If you don't, don't start. Smoking will get you through your heart if not through your lungs first.

How Much HDL Is Ideal?

Overall, while the numbers vary slightly for men and for women, levels of HDL should be at least 40 mg/dL. Less than that is a major risk. More than that, especially above 60 mg/dL, is generally deemed beneficial against stroke and heart disease.

Even the smallest increases in HDL levels, help prevent stroke and heart disease. A 1 mg/dL increase means as much as a 2 to 4 percent risk reduction. Nothing is set in stone, but studies suggest that treatment goals for those with either a history of heart disease or a low HDL level should be to increase HDL levels by 10 mg/dL.

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