New researching has proved that having high HDL does not necessarily protect you from heart disease. It turns out that “good” cholesterol, HDL, is not so good for your health.
The published study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, monitored more than 631,000 Canadians, with an age span of 40 years old and up, for about five years. This study revealed that people who have the highest HDL cholesterol are not necessarily protected from strokes or heart attacks. Also people with low levels of HDL can succumb to these health problems.
The findings were staggering as it was previously considered that boosting HDL levels along with decreasing “bad” LDL were the best thing for maintaining healthy heart and plaque-free arteries. HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is a fat-carrying protein responsible for taking cholesterol out of artery walls.
However, this is not first appearance of doubt that HDL is “good” cholesterol. Another study was performed on 1.7 million U.S. veterans, in August, where it was revealed that people with high HDL had increased rates of death from all causes. On the other hand, clinical trials for drugs that raise HDL did not succeed to improve participants’ health.
Researchers discovered that low levels of HDL were bad which was already known, but also the highest levels were health wise bad which is a new fact. The participants in the study with low HDL lingered to obesity, smoke, poor diet and exercise habits. They were with low incomes, and high triglycerides which are important factor for the overall cholesterol.
When a comparison was made to the people with HDL in the middle range with the ones with low levels (less than 50 mg/dl in women and less than 40 mg/dl in men), they were at higher risk of heart stroke or other stroke related deaths and also cancer, especially during the study.These conditions were related to the unhealthy lifestyle factors, but the authors couldn’t factor out every potential contributor. What is an interesting fact is that most experts recommend an HDL level over 40 mg/dL with the motto “the higher, the better.”
What was most surprisingly was the fact thatfor the people with high HDL the heart or strokerelated death did not drop. In fact those ones with the highest HDL levels (over 70 mg/dl in men and over 90 mg/dl in women) were actually the ones with an increased risk of death from non-heart or stroke-related causes. Authors could not give a reason for this condition. Previously was claimed that alcohol could play a crucial role, but now, even after the researchers have controlled the heavy drinking, the link remained to the related deaths.
Generally, authors concluded that HDL cannot be the best measure of heart disease risk, so raising HDL cannot lower the risk as it was hoped before. Their findings showed that actually HDL “is a marker of poor general health” and trying to change the HDL number with meds will not make any difference.
The lead author of this study, Dennis T. Ko, MD, associate professor at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto, said: “The link between good cholesterol and heart disease is complex. But it seems certain that there is a connection between people with low good cholesterol levels and other well-known risk factors for heart disease such as poor diet and exercise habits and other medical conditions.”He also said that raising HDL will not help patients but change of lifestyle will definitely do.
Therefore, people should focus on quitting smoking, regular exercising and maintaining healthy weight so that they can preserve their heart health.
However, authors of this study agree that further researches should be done asdifferent subclasses and particle sizes of HDL molecules were not scrutinized. An additional editorial to this study acknowledges that further researches may reveal new ways in which HDL links to heart disease.