There's no doubt that higher levels of HDL cholesterol can protect against heart disease. Also known as "good" cholesterol, HDL (or high-density lipoprotein) takes the bad cholesterol away from blood vessels and into the liver, where it's prepared for removal from the body.
Have you checked your HDL levels this year? Your levels are considered:
-low and risky if less than 40
-good and protective if 60 or greater
Looking Beyond the Numbers...
The problem is that adequate levels of HDL may not be enough. Heart disease cases have occured in people with normal HDL levels. Researchers believe that if your HDL levels are in the good range and heart disease is still a risk, your HDL may be dysfunctional. Something may be causing it to be inefficient and sluggish.
Researchers at UCLA suspected physical activity may have something to do with it since exercise is closely linked to HDL. They decided to compare HDL's behavior in sedentary versus active men who weight trained regularly.
They found that men who did not exercise were more likely to have dysfunctional HDL cholesterol than those who weight trained regularly.
Surprisingly, this pattern was seen regardless of body weight. What does this mean?
Say you have a man who looks great on the outside -"healthy" body weight, no excess fat mass hanging around, etc. He may appear to be healthy but, according to the pattern seen in the investigation, his cholesterol quality is poor. Inactive men had more dysfunctional HDL levels. Without a regular exercise program, his normal body weight may not get him too far. On the flipside, researchers found that overweight exercisers had good quality HDL cholesterol. In fact, their HDL cholesterol performed as efficiently as a lean exerciser's HDL.
The point? It doesn't matter where your weight is, you need to be active. For healthy cholesterol function, regular activity (especially strength training) may be more important than simply maintaining a generally "healthy" weight.
Journal of Applied Physiology Published 25 July 2013 Vol. no. , DOI: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00359.2013