Scientists have believed that higher levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol helped lower the risk of heart attacks. But new research shows that while HDL has for years been described as being the “good” cholesterol, high HDL is not always beneficial.
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that exists in all the cells in your body. It is necessary for good health because it helps the body produce hormones along with vitamin D, and helps digest food.
The human body naturally produces all the cholesterol it needs. We also take in cholesterol through the foods we eat.
There are two basic types of cholesterol:
• LDL – low-density lipoproteins transport cholesterol that is considered to be “bad” cholesterol
• HDL – high-density lipoproteins carry cholesterol that is called “good” cholesterol
High cholesterol can be hazardous to your health. Cholesterol travels through the bloodstream. Excess cholesterol cling to the walls of blood vessels and forms plaque between the layers of the artery.
This can clog the artery and prevent blood from moving freely, which can result in a heart attack or stroke.
Until recently, scientists believed that too much LDL or too little HDL increased the risks of heart disease and stroke.
But new research published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology may discredit that traditional belief.
The large study included data from 1.7 million male U.S. veterans collected over approximately 10 years. As expected, the study showed that too-low levels of HDL cholesterol increased the risk of death.
But researchers were surprised to see that high levels of HDL cholesterol also produced an increased risk of death. Moderate or intermediate levels of HDL cholesterol were the only levels that appeared to lower the risk of heart disease and premature death.
The study itself had inherent strengths and weaknesses.
On the plus side, the study had a large number of participants who were all followed for a long period of time.