Symptoms and tips to raise HDL cholesterol levels

HDL cholesterol is essential for the metabolism of fats in the human body. Its decrease can have several consequences.

Last update: June 22, 2022

Cholesterol is a type of fat essential for the proper functioning of the body. The best known forms are HDL cholesterol or Okay and LDL cholesterol or bad. Here we tell you everything you need to know to raise HDL levels.

The human body uses cholesterol as source for the production of various hormones, vitamins and substances that participate in digestion. It is transported in the blood by a group of proteins known as lipoproteins. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is responsible for collecting cholesterol in the blood and returning it to the liver to be eliminated.

Low HDL cholesterol and high LDL cholesterol levels are generally considered a major cardiovascular risk factor for atherosclerosis, according to studies. In this sense, it is essential to ensure an adequate balance of these fats in the blood.

Functions of HDL cholesterol in the human body

HDL are a group of lipoproteins responsible for removing fatty substances or excess lipids found in blood vessels. In this sense, act as a chemical transport medium that prevents the accumulation of fat in the circulation and in peripheral tissues.

Once loaded with lipids, HDL will travel to the liver, where they will deposit excess cholesterol. In this way, liver enzymes will metabolize it and use it to form new substances. Research confirms that the cholesterol acquired by the liver by HDL is preferentially used to produce bile.

On the other hand, these high-density lipoproteins possess anti-inflammatory, anticoagulant, antithrombotic and antioxidant properties. In addition, they actively participate in the production and release of steroid hormones, such as testosterone and estrogens, as well as in the synthesis of vitamin D and calcium metabolism.

HDL cholesterol is considered a protective factor against various diseases, such as myocardial infarction, angina pectoris and cerebral stroke. Some studies claim that people with low HDL levels are up to 8 times more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease.

HDL works as a cardiovascular protector. Its task of cleaning the arteries contributes to good circulation.


How do you know if HDL cholesterol is low?

Usually, blood tests allow to determine the levels of circulating total cholesterol. This test is called lipidic profile and it is useful in assessing the levels of HDL, LDL, VLDL and triglycerides.

It is recommended to perform this analysis every 5 years in young adults and every 1 to 2 years in men over 45 and in women over 55. Results are usually expressed in milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter (mg/dl). In the case of HDL cholesterol, higher concentrations are usually more beneficial.

The desirable value of HDL in men and women is 60 mg/dl or more. On the other hand, concentrations below 40 mg/dl in men or 50 mg/dl in women constitute a risk factor.

International protocol studies state that HDL cholesterol levels below 40 mg/dl greatly increase the probability of developing coronary heart disease. Furthermore, it is estimated that low HDL levels are the most common dyslipidemia in Europe.

Associated symptoms

In most cases, low HDL cholesterol does not produce any obvious symptoms. However, the imbalance of blood lipids sustained over time can generate several long-term manifestations.

Some of the symptoms and signs most associated with this condition are the following:

  • Swelling of the hands and feet.
  • Gas and abdominal discomfort.
  • Overweight or obesity.
  • Unexplained fatigue.
  • Headache.
  • Blurry vision.
  • Palpitations.
  • sweating
  • Dry mouth.

In severe cases, some people may experience severe chest pain as a symptom of a heart attack. Or loss of consciousness. In the presence of these manifestations, professional help should be sought immediately.

Causes of low HDL

There are a wide variety of causes of low HDL cholesterol. Most are associated with lifestyle already the habits of each person, among which we find the following as harmful:

  • Obesity.
  • sedentary lifestyle
  • smoking.
  • Chronic alcohol consumption.
  • Food rich in trans fats, sugars and processed foods.

Similarly, metabolic syndrome and diabetes mellitis are common causes of low HDL and high LDL. Excessive use of corticosteroids is also associated with redistribution of body fat, accompanied by imbalance of cholesterol and triglycerides.

There are genetic and hereditary factors that predispose a certain group of people.

Tips to raise HDL cholesterol levels

Most of the causes of this dyslipidemia are related to lifestyle. For this reason, it is possible to increase HDL cholesterol levels in the blood with some changes in our diet and habits.



1. Healthy and balanced diet

Diet is one more piece in controlling cholesterol levels. In this sense, some foods can raise HDL, while others lower it.

It is recommended the consumption of good fats, mono and polyunsaturated, to replenish HDL stores in the body. For this, it is advisable to increase the intake of the following products:

  • Blue fish, such as salmon, sardines, tuna, horse mackerel and mackerel.
  • Nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, and peanuts.
  • Vegetables, such as avocado and olives.
  • Seeds, such as chia, sunflower, pumpkin, and flaxseed.
  • Olive oil.

Saturated fats and trans fats greatly alter the concentration of HDL in the blood. Therefore, we must reduce or eliminate the consumption of the following foods:

  • Fried foods.
  • Sausages and processed products.
  • Sugary soft drinks.
  • Margarine and coconut oil.
  • Non-skimmed dairy products.

2. Keep weight under control

Obesity and the presence of fat around the waist are related to higher levels of LDL. In this sense, losing weight and keeping it close to ideal is essential to raise HDL cholesterol and avoid the appearance of multiple diseases related to this condition.

3. Exercise

Practicing physical activities on a regular basis is a great option to raise cholesterol Okay. Physical exercise combined with a balanced diet are the ideal formula to achieve this goal.

For it, professionals recommend 30 to 40 minutes of light to moderate aerobic exercise 3-4 times a week. Such is the case of walking, running or cycling.

4. Avoid cigarette

Regular cigarette or tobacco use lowers HDL cholesterol and increases the concentration of LDL and triglycerides. Especially in women.

Furthermore, passive exposure also achieves this effect. For this reason, it is advisable to avoid the habit and abandon it gradually.

5. Reduce alcohol intake

It’s known that moderate alcohol consumption may be beneficial for raising HDL. This pattern of consumption corresponds to 2 glasses of wine per day in men under 65 years of age and 1 glass of wine per day in men over 65 years of age or women of all ages.

However, long-term sustained and excessive alcohol consumption favors liver dysfunction and fat retention. Therefore, it is advisable to maintain a moderate intake.

Alcohol has limits that could be considered a safety margin. If they are exceeded, there are no more benefits.

Effects of Medications on HDL Cholesterol Levels

Currently, there are drugs used in the medical control of HDL concentrations. The main alternatives are niacin and fibratessuch as ciprofibrate and gemfibrozil.

They can raise HDL cholesterol concentrations by up to 30%. In addition, some statins, such as simvastatin and rosuvastatin, are also used. Nevertheless, these drugs do not reduce the risk of heart attacks in people with chronic dyslipidemia.

On the other hand, it should be known that certain drugs are capable of reducing good cholesterol levels as an adverse effect:

  • Beta blockers.
  • Anabolic steroids.
  • Progestins in contraceptives.
  • Benzodiazepines.

A key factor in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases

HDL cholesterol is a form of cholesterol that facilitates the removal of excess fat from the blood. In this way, it is able to prevent the formation of atherosclerotic plaques in the blood vessels. Consequently, it reduces the incidence of cardiovascular diseases.

The decrease in HDL levels can go unnoticed for several yearsTherefore, regular blood tests are essential. Fortunately, changes in diet and lifestyle go a long way in maintaining balance.

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