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RealSimple.com: Numbers to Live By

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HDL Cholesterol

Healthy number: 50 mg/dL or higher.



High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is the “good” cholesterol, so the higher your number, the better your health. “HDL cholesterol helps remove harmful LDL cholesterol from arteries,” says Goldberg. An HDL level lower than 50 mg/dL is a heart-disease risk factor for women, while a level of 60 mg/dL or higher helps protect you from heart disease. The best ways to raise your HDL are to quit smoking; exercise; eat monounsaturated fats (olive oil is one source) instead of saturated and trans fats; and avoid having more than one alcoholic drink a day. When HDL is low and LDL is seriously high, cholesterol-lowering drugs, like statins, as well as niacin supplements can help.
RealSimple


Have yours checked: Starting at age 20 and older. “You should have a fasting blood test to measure total cholesterol and LDL, plus the other lipids, triglycerides, and HDL [high-density lipoprotein],” says Goldberg. “If the numbers are normal, you don’t have to recheck them for five years.” If the numbers are not where they should be, the best way to improve your cholesterol levels is to lose excess weight; exercise more often; stick with a diet that is low in cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans fats; and get your levels rechecked yearly. Even if you do all this, you may still need to take a cholesterol-lowering medication.

(Photo: Julie Teninbaum)

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