Keeping your cholesterol level within the acceptable range is crucial to your heart health. So many people work hard to bring their level down. However, there is one type of cholesterol where you might want to consider bringing the numbers up. Your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) is known as the good cholesterol for its ability to remove the bad cholesterol from the bloodstream. Once you understand the good cholesterol – HDL and how it works you'll be able to see how it can actually improve your heart condition.

What Is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a term used to describe a fat-like substance that is found in all the cells of your body. When found at acceptable levels, cholesterol can actually help to build up the cells in the body. As cholesterol is carried through the body it is attached to two different types of proteins. These lipoproteins deliver the cholesterol to the different cells where it is burned to get the fuel and energy needed by the cell to perform certain functions.

There are two different types of lipoproteins:

1.) Low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) are called the bad cholesterol as they can build up in the walls of the blood vessels, narrowing the pathways eventually leading to a clot or a blockage of blood flow to the heart or the brain.

2.) The other type is the high-density lipoprotein or the good cholesterol – HDL. HDL is able to pick up any excess LDL in the blood and carry it to the liver where it can be broken down and eliminated from the body.

In simple terms, the LDL is often the gunk that clogs up the system and the HDL is the clean up crew that can clear it out and get rid of it. This is why it is so important to have higher levels of HDL in your system at all times It keeps the system clear of blockage so your heart can function better.

Optimal HDL Cholesterol Levels:

Your cholesterol level is measured in terms of milligrams/deciliter or mg/dl. The optimal HDL levels are different for men and women. Ideally, both men and women should maintain a level of 60mg/dl or more and women should have. However, women should maintain a minimum of 50mg/dl to maintain optimum heart health. Men should have no less than 40mg/dl.

Some people naturally maintain high HDL levels but for those who do not, steps should be taken to improve their numbers. Doctors often recommend getting regular exercise, quitting smoking, and making necessary dietary changes. If those natural methods are not effective, they may recommend taking certain medications in order to help increase the good cholesterol – HDL in their system.

Drugs, however, like prescription niacin, gemfibrozil, and statins can be very effective in helping to control your cholesterol numbers. Still, caution must be exercised as some drugs also come with some very unpleasant side effects. Always have a frank and honest conversation with your doctor to make sure that the complications often related to drugs do not overshadow its purpose.

Maintaining good heart health involves much more than just managing your cholesterol levels. However, if you know how to maintain the level within the acceptable range for heart health, you are well on your way.