Can Your ‘Good’ Cholesterol Be Too High?

Can Your ‘Good’ Cholesterol Be Too High?

High levels of HDL, or “good” cholesterol, are generally considered healthy. But can you have too much of a good thing?

Possibly so, a study in the European Heart Journal found. Danish researchers tracked more than 116,508 men and women, average age 57, for an average of six years. There were 10,678 deaths.

After adjusting for other factors, an HDL of 73 milligrams per deciliter in men and 93 in women was associated with the lowest all-cause mortality. Compared with that, men with HDL levels of 97 to 115 had a 36 percent increased risk for death, and twice the risk above 116. Women at greater than 135 had a 68 percent increased risk. (Only 2.3 percent of men had levels above 97, and 0.3 percent of women had levels above 135.)

Low HDL, too, was tied to higher mortality risk, consistent with other studies. At levels under 39, the lower the HDL, the greater the increased risk for death.

The senior author, Dr. Borge G. Nordestgaard, a clinical professor at the University of Copenhagen, said that until now, he would “congratulate” patients with very high HDL. “The higher the better!”

“But now we know that’s not so. These people should protect themselves — exercise, stop smoking, eat a healthy diet and so on.”