HDL “Good” Cholesterol Not So Good After All?

We’ve been taught for decades that there are two types of cholesterol: LDL (bad) and HDL (good). It turns out these determinations are not so cut and dried.

Past findings have suggested that HDL (“good”) cholesterol was good because it served as an indicator in predicting heart disease and a protective factor against it. This came about because of a study done in the 70’s which correlated high HDL with low risk for coronary heart disease.

Since then, the medical community and the general public have followed this rule. However, this study failed to include anyone other than White Americans.

To rectify this, The National Institute of Health recently gathered new information on the matter. When they added Black adults to their research, different results emerged – they still found that lower HDL was linked to more risk of heart attacks, but only for White adults.

Also, higher HDL levels did not necessarily reduce the risk of heart disease for either Black or White adults.

Finally, for both Black and White adults, high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol only “modestly” predicted their heart health outcomes. This new study pulled data from thousands of people aged 45 years or older, over about ten years.

This study emphasizes the bio-individual nature of health. As CNN Medical Correspondent Dr. Tara Narula says, there must be more “race and ethnic-specific research” on the link between HDL/LDL and heart health.

Furthermore, it’s no longer advisable to assume high HDL levels are a clean bill of health – more education is needed to inform individuals that this matter is not so simple. More emphasis should be placed on keeping LDL cholesterol in a normal range.

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