HDL Cholesterol: 81 mg/dL

What does an HDL level of 81 mean?

An HDL cholesterol level of 81 mg/dL is considered optimal. HDL levels in the 60-100 mg/dL range are associated with a lower risk of heart disease, so the higher, the better.

Factors that could contribute to an HDL level of 81

A variety of factors can affect HDL levels, including your diet, weight, and physical activity level, as well as your age, sex, race, and genetics. 

  • 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. Routine exercise can increase HDL cholesterol levels and lower LDL levels.

  • Age and Sex: Women tend to have higher HDL levels than men, though levels typically decrease after menopause. 

  • Genetics (heredity): Genetics play a role in cholesterol production, which is why family members commonly have similar HDL and 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 [8].

  • Alcohol: Some evidence suggests moderate alcohol consumption may increase HDL levels [6]. For healthy adults, that’s < 1 drink/day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and < 2 drinks a day for men aged 65 and younger [6].

How to maintain optimal HDL levels

An HDL level of 81 mg/dL is good for your overall health and reduces your risk for heart disease if your LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels 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 HDL cholesterol level in the optimal range:  

  • Be physically active. Get 30-60 minutes of moderate exercise at least 5x/week.

  • Fill up on fiber, particularly from beans and whole grains. Gradually increase your fiber intake to 30-40 g/day.

  • Avoid trans fats (like hydrogenated oils) and limit your saturated fat intake to < 10% of total calories.

  • Eat small, fatty fish, including salmon, sardines, and mackerel, at least twice a week.

  • Lose excess weight if you are overweight or obese.

  • Quit smoking if you currently smoke.

  • Manage stress and get adequate sleep as stress promotes inflammation that can lower HDL levels.


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  2. Carotid Artery Disease. (n.d.). National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute | NIH. Retrieved September 9, 2021, from


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  4. Racette, S. B., Lin, X., Lefevre, M., Spearie, C. A., Most, M. M., Ma, L., & Ostlund, R. E., Jr (2010). Dose effects of dietary phytosterols on cholesterol metabolism: a controlled feeding study. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 91(1), 32–38.


  5. Cholesterol: Types, Tests, Treatments, Prevention. (2020, July 31). Cleveland Clinic.


  6. HDL cholesterol: How to boost your “good” cholesterol. (2020, November 10). Mayo Clinic.


  7. HDL: The “Good” Cholesterol. (2019, April 18). National Institutes of Health.


  8. Blood Cholesterol | NHLBI, NIH. (2021, January 4). National Institutes of Health.