Is a low HDL a cardiac risk?

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Submitted by Dr T on July 11, 2011 – 8:29am

Hi.  I am a 42 year old male.  I just had a physical and my HDL was 29.0.  My total chlesterol was 137, Tri 99, LDL 88.2, VLDL 19.8. I weigh about 188 lbs and am 5-10″ tall.  I should probably lose about 5 – 10 lbs.  My HDL has been low for years but the other cholesterol numbers have always been good.  My doctor does not seem concerned but I’d like to know if the low HDL is much of a risk factor.
I exercise 30-60 minutes about 3-5 times per week.  My glucose has always been normal except one test a few years ago, which seems to have been an error, because it was never repeated.  We do the glycohemoglobin test to be safe and it always comes back normal – this time 4.9. My diet is a bit heavy on carbs – could this be a factor?  Any other things I could do to raise the HDL?  Thanks!

A healthy diet will go a long way to raise your HDL since you already exercise a lot and seem healthy otherwise.  HDL removes excess cholesterol in the blood. A Low HDL (less than 40 mg/dL for men, less than 50 mg/dL for women) puts you at higher risk for atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease.  Smoking, obesity and lack of exercise can all result in lower HDL cholesterol. HDL functions by removing the excess cholesterol from your blood.Low HDL levels are also associated with:

  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome
  • High triglyceride levels
  • Lack of exercise
  • Your Genes
  • Medications such as anabolic steroids
  • Poor diet, especially if high in carbohydrates

You can read more about cholesterol here:
About the risks of HDL:
A heart healthy lifestyle:
A heart healthy diet:
You can calculate your risk for heart  disease and stroke here:

Hope this helps,
Dr T

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