Maintain healthy cholesterol levels: High good HDL and low bad LDL may be disastrous for health

Maintain healthy cholesterol levels: High good HDL and low bad LDL may be disastrous for health
Too less of a bad thing and too much of a good thing may be equally dangerous for health. It is important to maintain a balance. © Shutterstock

High LDL cholesterol levels have always been associated with serious health risks and high HDL cholesterol is believed to offer health benefits. But too less of the bad and too much of a good thing may be risky for health.

Written by Jahnavi Sarma |Published : November 8, 2019 8:56 PM IST

When we talk about cholesterol issues, a fatty substance produced by the liver, we usually mean high levels of it, which can cause a range of health disorders including cardiovascular problems and heart diseases. This is because a high LDL cholesterol level can block arteries and impede the normal flow of blood in the body. But, sometimes, a low cholesterol level can also be bad for health. It can indicate cancer, and mental disorders like anxiety and depression.


According to a study at the American Academy of Neurology, low cholesterol levels can increase a woman's risk of haemorrhagic strokes. Researchers say that women who have levels of LDL cholesterol 70 mg/dL or lower may be more than twice as likely to have a haemorrhagic stroke than women with LDL cholesterol levels from 100 to 130 mg/dL. Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, published this study. They also noticed that women with the lowest triglyceride levels, a fat found in the blood, had a higher risk of haemorrhagic stroke compared to those with the highest triglyceride levels.

The result of this study is a contradiction to the popular belief that LDL cholesterol level must be kept low to prevent cardiovascular disease. But very low levels of this bad cholesterol is also not good, say researchers.

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Another study at the Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, US, says that very high levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL or 'good') cholesterol may be associated with an increased risk of heart attack and death.

According to researchers, physicians always tell their patients that the higher your 'good' cholesterol, the better. But, the results from this study and others suggest that this may no longer be the case. They say that 'HDL cholesterol is good because the HDL molecule is involved in the transport of cholesterol from the blood and blood vessel walls to the liver and ultimately out of the body. It reduces the risk of clogged arteries and atherosclerosis. People with low HDL cholesterol have a greater risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. But the protective effect of very high HDL cholesterol has been unclear'.

Researchers looked at the relationship between HDL cholesterol levels and the risk of heart attack and death in 5,965 individuals, most of whom had heart disease. The average age of participants was 63 years and 35 per cent were female. They saw that participants with HDL cholesterol levels greater than 60 mg/dl (1.5 mmol/L) had a nearly 50 per cent increased risk of dying from a cardiovascular disease or having a heart attack compared to those with HDL cholesterol levels 41-60 mg/dl. They reached this conclusion after taking into account other risk factors for heart disease like diabetes, smoking and LDL bad cholesterol.


From the above-mentioned researches, we see that too less of a bad thing and too much of a good thing may be equally dangerous for health. It is important to maintain a balance. Just because HDL is good cholesterol, it does not mean that you have to increase it to absurd levels to enjoy its protective benefits. The same is true for LDL or bad cholesterol. Don't bring down the level of LDL cholesterol so much that you have to suffer for it. Maintain a balance for good health.

Here, we tell you how you can ensure that you always have a healthy cholesterol level.

Regular exercise

This is very important. It will also boost your overall health. Make sure you exercise for at last 30 minutes every day. Join the gym, go for a swim, walk in the park or just do a lot of housework if you are confined at home. Anything that increases your heart rate will help.

Maintain ideal weight

Obesity can adversely affect your cholesterol levels. At the same time, being underweight will also not help you. So, try to maintain your ideal weight. If you are not sure how to, consult a nutritionist or a healthcare professional and ask them for help.

Eat healthy

Plan well-balanced and nutritious meals. Have a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. These are rich n antioxidants. Increase your intake of whole grains and legumes. Include fibre-rich food in every meal. Have more of poly- and mono-unsaturated fatty acids and less of saturated and trans fats. Avoid alcohol and, if you can't, restrict yourself to less than one drink a day if you are a woman and two drinks if you are a man.

Avoid stress

Everybody knows that stress is responsible for a whole range of health disorders. It affects your cholesterol levels indirectly by inducing you to pick up unhealthy habits. If you are under stress, you may eat more unhealthy food and turn to alcohol or tobacco, which is not good for cholesterol levels. Instead, try spending some time in nature. It will definitely bring down your stress. You an also listen to soothing music or try out some meditation. Do whatever makes you happy and see the difference.