I recently learned my HDL was 63 - three points above the normal range. Since HDL is good cholesterol, why was that number flagged on the labratory report? What do the ranges indicate? Also, I'm a vegetarian - nearly vegan. How does this happen? What non-medicinal approach should I take to fix the problem (if this is a problem)?
Thanks for the question. You are correct. The higher the better.
When laboratories give reports, they also give a range of "normals." These normals are based on population studies and their results. In this case, being above the normal range means that your result is higher than most people, and when it comes to HDL (good cholesterol) that's a good thing.
Most doctors agree that the higher the HDL, the lower the risk for heart disease. Of course this is only one factor when considering the risks for developing heart problems, along with genetic factors (family history), obesity, smoking, other lipid elevation, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Aerobic exercise has shown to raise HDL levels, as well as weight loss, smoking cessation, elimination of trans fatty acids (partially hydrogenated vegetable oils), increase in mono-unsaturated fats, addition of soluble fiber to diet, cranberry juice, and high ogega-3 containing foods (like fish). Modest amounts of alcohol can also increase HDL levels, but most doctors hesitate to make this an endorsed reccommendation because of the fine line between the amount that benefits the heart and the amount that can harm the heart and other organ systems.
So, continue your present course. No fix is needed.
Thanks. I hope this has been helpful.
Martin Cane, M.D.