Healthy HDL Cholesterol Levels Good for Longevity

What’s your HDL cholesterol level? Try that as a conversation starter at a holiday party sometime in the next few weeks. Chances are pretty good, you’ll get some blank stares. But you never know. It could be the gateway to picking out what to eat and what to avoid at the dinner table. There are three types of cholesterol levels health professionals pay attention to:

  • Total cholesterol

  • LDL (bad) cholesterol

  • HDL (good) cholesterol

Why does cholesterol matter? It’s one way your doctor can estimate your risk for heart disease or stroke. And for a long time, doctors thought improving HDL cholesterol levels with diet, exercise and medication had no limits.

But a new study suggests that’s not entirely true. In a Danish study, researchers followed 116,000 people for 23 years.

They expected to see an increase in early death for those people with lower levels of HDL (good) cholesterol and higher levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol. That proved to be true. But they also found that when HDL levels became exceptionally high, it also increased the risk for early death.

What’s a healthy HDL cholesterol level? The National Institutes of Health guidelines on cholesterol recommends an HDL cholesterol level in the range of 40 to 60 mg/dL. But if HDL is significantly higher than 60, it may also increase the risk for early death, according to the study published in the European Heart Journal.

If you don’t know what your cholesterol level is (Total, LDL, HDL), ask your doctor about a simple blood test to find out. It’s actually something you should measure every year, especially as you age. If you want to keep your heart healthy, some things you can do include maintain a healthy weight, get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, and eat a heart-healthy diet.

Wondering what a heart-healthy diet looks like?

We took the guesswork out of shopping and cooking, and created over 100 low-sodium, heart-healthy meals and snacks. Check out the selection of Low-Sodium meals.