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Low HDL cholesterol level in the blood

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Low HDL cholesterol level in the blood

What is low HDL cholesterol level in the blood called?

  • HDL hypocholesterolemia

What is the normal HDL cholesterol level in the blood?

If you need to know which are the HDL cholesterol reference ranges or you require more information about the role of HDL cholesterol in the blood you can visit: Normal HDL cholesterol level in the blood

What does a low HDL cholesterol level in the blood mean?

HDL cholesterol, also called the “Good cholesterol” is the responsible of transport the excess of cholesterol from the bloodstream to the liver to be eliminated.

For that reason, if HDL cholesterol level in the blood is low, excess of cholesterol will not be properly eliminated from the bloodstream and there is a risk of suffering atherosclerosis, accumulation of cholesterol on the inner walls of the vessel, which can narrow an artery.

A low level of HDL cholesterol increases the probability of suffering a cardiovascular disease (stroke, heart attack, etc.) in the future.

HDL Cholesterol values are usually given in mg/dl but sometimes you can see those values in mmol/l following the International System of Units (SI). In case your values are in mmol/l you can convert them using this tool:

mmol/l
  • Mild HDL hypocholesterolemia (35 - 30 mg/dl in adult men and 40 - 30 mg/dl in adult women):

    HDL cholesterol level is a bit low. If total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol are not over normal range it is not a matter for concern.

    You should try to follow a balanced diet, increase the intake of Omega-3 products (fish or olive oil), lose weight if you are overweight and cut down on tobacco. Get a new blood test in a few months and it is probable that the LDL level returns to normal range.

    If total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol or triglycerides are higher than normal range, you should visit your doctor.

  • Moderate HDL hypocholesterolemia (30 - 20 mg/dl in adults):

    Moderate HDL hypocholesterolemia requires follow-up because the risk of suffering a cardiovascular disease (stroke, heart attack, etc.) increases considerably.

    It is a matter of concern id LDL cholesterol is above 150 mg/dl or there are other cardiovascular risk factors (smoking, sedentary lifestyle, high blood pressure, diabetes or obesity). In that case, if your doctor considers it appropriate, he will give you medication to combat cholesterol levels. Vitamin B3, also called niacin, may be very effective.

  • Marked HDL hypocholesterolemia (<20 mg/dl in adults):

    HDL cholesterol level is very low ant the risk of suffering a cardiovascular disease is high.

    If triglyceride levels in the blood are above the normal range, the situation is worse and a visit to your doctor is mandatory. He will probably prescribe you medication. You should also follow a healthy lifestyle (balanced diet, lose weight, do regular exercise, stop smoking). If triglyceride levels are above 500 mg/dl the risk is higher.

    In case triglycerides were not high, a genetic disease is a possibility. Tangier disease or Lecithin cholesterol acyltransferase deficiency should be considered and maybe to perform a genetic screening is appropriate.

Which factors can reduce the HDL cholesterol level in the blood?

To suffer a particular health situation or taking some drugs can reduce your HDL cholesterol level in the blood:

  • Menopause
  • Obesity
  • Tobacco
  • Drugs
    • Antipsychotics
    • Beta blockers
    • Anabolic steroids
      • Danazol
    • Protease inhibitor

Which diseases can reduce your HDL cholesterol level in the blood?

The following diseases can explain a HDL cholesterol level in the blood lower than normal:

  • Diabetes
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Tangier disease
  • Lecithin cholesterol acyltransferase deficiency

What can I do to increase the HDL cholesterol level in the blood?

If your HDL cholesterol level in the blood is a bit low, you can consider the following tips:

  • Increase your Omega-3 intake (avocados, salmon, nuts and olive oil)
  • Stop smoking
  • Do regular exercise
  • Lose weight in case of obesity
  • Some drugs, such as niacin (vitamin B3) can increase your HDL cholesterol level

Where can I find more information about HDL cholesterol level in the blood?

You can visit our pages about:

Which values are considered a low HDL cholesterol level in the blood?

The following values are considered to be below the normal range:

IMPORTANT: These levels are expressed in mg/dl. They are an example of a healthy man of about 45 years old with no known disease and not taking any medication. The ranges can be different depending on the laboratory or on your personal circumstances.

HDL Cholesterol
Mild HDL hypocholesterolemia
34 mg/dl33 mg/dl32 mg/dl31 mg/dl30 mg/dl   
Moderate HDL hypocholesterolemia
29 mg/dl28 mg/dl27 mg/dl26 mg/dl25 mg/dl24 mg/dl23 mg/dl22 mg/dl
21 mg/dl20 mg/dl      
Marked HDL hypocholesterolemia
19 mg/dl18 mg/dl17 mg/dl16 mg/dl15 mg/dl14 mg/dl13 mg/dl12 mg/dl
11 mg/dl10 mg/dl9 mg/dl8 mg/dl7 mg/dl6 mg/dl5 mg/dl4 mg/dl
3 mg/dl2 mg/dl1 mg/dl0 mg/dl    
foto de Dr. Javier Muga Bustamante
Written by

Dr. Javier Muga Bustamante

Last update: 24/04/2020

Bibliography

  • Concise Book of Medical Laboratory Technology: Methods and Interpretations. 2nd Edition. 2015. Ramnik Sood. ISBN: 978-93-5152-333-8. Pag. 484.
  • Tietz. Fundamentals of Clinical Chemistry. Carl A. Burtis, Edward R. Ashwood, David E. Bruns, Barbara G. Sawyer. WB Saunders Company, 2008. Pag 402. ISBN: 978-0-7216-3865-2.

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