Health IQ: What’s Your Number?

Q: What’s the deal with HDL cholesterol? I’ve heard it’s really important for women, but what about us guys?

A: So much of health is about decreasing stuff: weight, blood pressure, doughnut intake. But we want you to increase your healthy cholesterol (HDL) as much as possible, to at least 40 mg/dL, no matter your gender. Here’s why: Your body gets upset when culprits such as high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes and those doughnuts damage the artery wall. To repair that damage, your body sends in cholesterol. LDL (bad cholesterol) works like plaster to repair the problem but can clog the tunnels; HDL acts like a spatula to clear it away.

Why do you need more HDL? A recent review of studies shows that increasing HDL by as little as 7.5% (about 4 mg/dL) while lowering LDL can seriously reduce plaque in the arteries. Raise your levels by eating healthy fats, exercising daily, having a drink a day and asking your doc about the right doses of the vitamin niacin or a statin.

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