The strange side effect of too much ‘good’ cholesterol

HDL is known as the “good” cholesterol. It can help protect against the buildup of fatty cholesterol deposits (LDL) that contribute to arterial plaque which causes narrowing of the arteries and restricted blood flow.

HDL works by transporting LDL to the liver, which then flushes them out of the body. It also inhibits both the oxidation of LDL and inflammation of the blood vessels.

In addition to its cardioprotective properties, HDL can also actually help reduce fatigue for people with autoimmune diseases and may help protect against Alzheimer’s disease.

With all those benefits, you may think it makes sense to keep your HDL levels as high as possible. However, research is finding that might cause a new set of problems.

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The downsides of “good” cholesterol

The recommended HDL levels are 40 to 60 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) for men and 50 to 60 mg/dL for women. These levels have been shown to protect against heart disease and stroke.

It’s when HDL levels exceed 60 mg/dL that HDL’s heart benefits appear to be reversed. For instance, one study showed people with HDL levels above 60 mg/dL were nearly 50 percent more likely to have a heart attack or die from heart disease than people with HDL levels between 41 and 60 mg/dL.

While it’s not clear why high HDL levels may be harmful to the heart, researchers believe they could slow the process of clearing LDL from the arteries. They are also reported to enhance inflammation, which could underlie a range of chronic diseases in older people since systemic inflammation tends to increase with aging.

Other conditions linked to high HDL include thyroid disorders and inflammatory diseases. Now, it looks like high HDL can weaken bones…

High HDL and fracture risk in seniors

Researchers in Australia conducted an analysis of data from the Aspirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly (ASPREE) clinical trial and the ASPREE-Fracture substudy, to determine whether higher HDL-C levels correlated with increased fracture risk in older adults.  

Study participants had a mean age of 75 and had no evidence of cardiovascular disease, dementia, physical disability or debilitating chronic illness.

Overall, 1,659 of the 16,262 participants with a plasma HDL-C measurement at baseline experienced at least one fracture over a 4-year period.

And there was a connection to HDL…

People with the highest HDL measurements (greater than 74 mg/dL) showed a 33 percent higher risk of fracture than those with the lowest measurements. And each incremental deviation of HDL was associated with a 14 percent higher risk of fracture.

Two previous animal studies may explain why…

In those studies, HDL reduced bone mineral density by lowering the number and function of the osteoblasts that form bone.

Corresponding author Dr. Sultana Monira Hussain of Monash University says the findings “highlight another potential concern with high HDL levels and another likely adverse effect of the drugs that substantially increases plasma HDL levels.”

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Maintaining optimal HDL levels

Given these findings, not to mention that some research has shown an inconsistent link between cholesterol, heart problems and statins, should you avoid using them? Well, it depends.

As always, if you’re currently on medication, don’t stop it without consulting with your doctor. But it might be helpful to get a second opinion.

Cardiologist Dr. Elizabeth Klodas shares here what she tells her patients about statins, starting with that she feels drugs are an incomplete solution and that diet should be the first step.

Dietary changes can be impactful. One study documented that the Mediterranean diet, which is high in nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables, beans, unprocessed grains, olive oil, and fish, reduced cardiovascular events in patients with heart disease by a whopping 37 percent. This kind of diet also helps raise low HDL in a natural healthy way.

Editor’s note: There are numerous safe and natural ways to decrease your risk of blood clots including the 25-cent vitamin, the nutrient that acts as a natural blood thinner and the powerful herb that helps clear plaque. To discover these and more, click here for Hushed Up Natural Heart Cures and Common Misconceptions of Popular Heart Treatments!


Fracture risk up with higher levels of HDL-C in healthy seniors — Medical Xpress

High HDL-C Levels Linked to Increased Fracture Risk — Medscape

Association of Plasma High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol Level With Risk of Fractures in Healthy Older Adults — JAMA Cardiology

Can Good Cholesterol Be Too High? — WebMD

Carolyn Gretton

By Carolyn Gretton

Carolyn Gretton is a freelance writer based in New Haven, CT who specializes in all aspects of health and wellness and is passionate about discovering the latest health breakthroughs and sharing them with others. She has worked with a wide range of companies in the alternative health space and has written for online and print publications like Dow Jones Newswires and the Philadelphia Inquirer.