When people talk about “good cholesterol,” they’re talking about high-density lipoproteins (HDL)—the kind of cholesterol that works positively in your bloodstream.

HDL, low-density lipoproteins (LDL), triglycerides, and Lp(a) cholesterol make up your total cholesterol count, the magic number your doctor might be telling you to lower. In that count, HDL cholesterol is the kind you want in higher numbers.

Why Is It Good?

Because cholesterol can’t dissolve in the blood, it relies on lipoproteins to transport it to and from cells. Good cholesterol is responsible for sweeping the artery-clogging bad cholesterol out of the bloodstream and taking it to the liver, adrenals, ovaries, and testes. In essence, HDL cholesterol is the “good cholesterol” because it removes bad cholesterol from the body. Because of this, HDL cholesterol is responsible for reducing the hardening of the arteries, which lowers your risk of heart attack or heart disease.

Research has also found that having a low HDL level increases your chances of memory loss and dementia.

What the Numbers Mean

In a healthy person, 30 percent of the blood is made up of good cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends a HDL level higher than 60 mg/dL. An HLD level less than 40 for men and less than 50 for women is considered dangerous.

How to Raise Good Cholesterol

Good cholesterol can be raised in many ways, including:

  • limiting alcohol intake
  • decreasing caloric intake
  • avoiding foods high in trans fats acid and LDL cholesterol
  • losing weight
  • quitting smoking
  • exercising
  • adding soluble fiber and omega-3 fatty acids to your diet