An HDL cholesterol level of 60 mg/dL is considered optimal. Having HDL levels in the 60-100 mg/dL range is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, so the higher, the better.
A variety of factors can affect HDL levels, including your diet, weight, and physical activity level. Your age, sex, race, and genetics also impact HDL levels.
Diet: Diets that are high fiber and low in added sugars and unhealthy fats promote higher HDL levels.
Weight. Being at a healthy weight promotes higher HDL levels.
Physical Activity. Being active can help raise HDL cholesterol levels and lower LDL levels.
Age and Sex: Women tend to have higher HDL levels than men, though levels tend to decrease after menopause.
Genetics (heredity): Family members commonly have similar cholesterol levels, which suggests genes impact both “good” HDL and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels.
Race. Blacks/African Americans are more likely to have higher HDL levels; however, other risk factors, such as high blood pressure, obesity, or diabetes, may outweigh the health benefit of these higher levels .
Alcohol: Some evidence suggests moderate alcohol consumption may increase HDL levels . For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men aged 65 and younger .
Not only is a level of 60 mg/dL good for your overall health, but you are also at lower risk for developing heart disease in the future if your LDL cholesterol and triglycerides are in the normal range.
Because “bad” cholesterol levels tend to increase with age, it’s best to put heart-healthy habits into place now. Here are some things you can do to help keep your “good” HDL cholesterol levels in the optimal range:
Exercise for 30-60 minutes 5x/week.
Eat more fiber, particularly from beans and whole grains.
Avoid trans fats, like hydrogenated oils, and limit saturated fats.
Eat small, fatty fish at least twice a week.
Lose weight if you are overweight or obese.
Manage stress and get adequate sleep.
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