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What Is Serum HDL Cholesterol?

Updated April 17, 2017

In many cases, a high level of cholesterol is cause for alarm. However, that is not always so. High levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL), which is commonly referred to as "good cholesterol," are beneficial and a sign of good cardiovascular health.

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HDL cholesterol binds with LDL (bad) cholesterol in the bloodstream. Next, it removes the LDL cholesterol by carrying it to the liver to be broken down and removed from the body.


HDL comprises about 25 per cent to 30 per cent of total blood serum cholesterol. HDL percentages lower than this signify potentially bad cardiovascular health, and higher percentages offer increased protection from the negative effects of bad cholesterol (LDL).


According to the American Heart Association, higher levels of HDL cholesterol have been conclusively shown to lower the risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke.


While the body produces a certain amount of HDL naturally, persons who have higher levels of HDL cholesterol typical eat a healthy diet that contains healthy unsaturated fats such as olive oil and omega-3, along with plentiful servings of fruits and vegetables. Adhering to a regular routine of physical activity also encourages the production of HDL cholesterol.

The Numbers

Most people should aim for HDL levels of 60 milligrams per decilitre of blood or higher. HDL numbers below 40 milligrams per decilitre indicate an increased risk of heart attack.


High HDL levels signify above all else, good overall cardiovascular health. To keep HDL levels high, eat a healthy diet and refrain from HDL-lowering activities such as smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol.

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