Cholesterol Levels for Men – The Cholesterol Level that Counts Is One You want Higher, Not Lower

Much has been made of the fact that measuring cholesterol is not a good way of predicting the risk of heart attack or stroke. For men who have reached their 65th birthday who want to live to be 85, however, it may be better to have higher levels of HDL cholesterol.

A paper published online in the February 2011 edition of the American Journal of Cardiology reported that men with the highest levels of HDL cholesterol in their 60’s were 28 per cent less likely to die before the age of 85. Researchers from the Massachusetts Veterans Epidemiology and Research Information Center in Boston looked at the records of about 650 veterans when they were around 65 years of age, grouping them by HDL levels.

With the lowest group of HDL levels 40 mg/dl or lower, the scientists found that for every 10 mg/dl of HDL, men were 14% less likely to die over the next 20 years. Overall, 375 of the 650 veterans lived at least to age 85. Men who had the highest HDL levels also were less likely to be overweight, and less likely to smoke.

This kind of study cannot prove that higher HDL causes greater longevity. It can only show that there is a relationship between HDL and greater longevity. There could be some other factor that was not considered that is actually enabling men to live longer.

Higher levels of HDL, however, are generally associated with better health. The question is, how can men raise their HDL?

Here are some of the methods of complementary medicine:

  • Simply eating fewer calories, never stuffing yourself, lowers HDL levels.
  • Eating at least 5 servings of vegetables per day increases HDL levels about 10%.
  • Some studies have found that eating 1 oz (about 30 g) of macadamia nuts per day can lower LDL and possibly raise HDL about 8%.
  • DHA supplements, either fish oil or microalgae, don’t lower LDL levels or raise HDL levels, but they do change the size of LDL and HDL particles in healthy way.

Pharmaceutical companies are working hard to create a pill to raise HDL-but you get many more benefits simply by eating less overall, and eating more vegetables and nuts. DHA supplements may also help.

Selected Reference:

Rahilly-Tierney CR, Spiro A 3rd, Vokonas P, Gaziano JM. Relation Between High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol and Survival to Age 85 Years in Men (from the VA Normative Aging Study). Am J Cardiol. 2011 Feb 4. [Epub ahead of print]