What is a high-density lipoprotein (HDL)?

Dr. Joseph M. Mercola, DO
Family Practitioner

High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is the "good" cholesterol that helps to keep cholesterol away from your arteries and remove any excess from arterial plaque, which may help to prevent heart disease.

High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is ʺgood" cholesterol. HDL acts as a cholesterol scavenger, picking up excess cholesterol in the blood and taking it back to the liver, where it's broken down. The higher one's HDL level, the less ʺbadʺ cholesterol in the blood.

High-density lipoproteins (HDL) are small, dense molecules responsible for transporting cholesterol to the liver. HDL is good for your body because it helps remove cholesterol from the arteries and protects against dangerous blockages (plaques) in the arteries. HDL cholesterol is also less likely than other forms of cholesterol to oxidize and leave sticky plaques on artery walls.

People who exercise, don't smoke, and maintain a healthy weight tend to have higher levels of this "good" cholesterol. Low HDL levels can be a risk factor for coronary heart disease (CHD), while high levels (>60 mg/dL) help reduce CHD risk.


High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is like a tow truck that removes bad cholesterol from your blood. HDL-cholesterol is known as the “good” cholesterol that helps take the “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol) out of the body. The higher your HDL-C level, the more “bad” cholesterol your body can remove.

High-density lipoprotein is considered to be a good cholesterol. Watch this video to learn more from Dr. Curtis Mann about high-density lipoprotein.

Laura Motosko, MSEd, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is a lipoprotein that contains a small amount of cholesterol and carries cholesterol away from body cells and tissues; therefore, high levels are desirable, ≥ 60 mg/dl. HDL cholesterol is recommended to be increased by regular exercise and including healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats in your diet such as those from flaxseed, canola oil, soybean oil, walnuts, algae, fatty fish and fish oil.

Alberta Scruggs
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

A high-density lipoprotein, HDL is one of the five major lipoproteins found in the body. It is the smallest lipoprotein because it has the highest amount of protein and cholesterol. It is considered the good cholesterol because it helps remove and prevent plaque buildup in the arterial walls. HDLs have several functions such as transporting cholesterol to organs such as the ovaries, adrenals and testes to release cholesterol and moving discarded cholesterol back to the liver to be processed and eliminated.

Jim White
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist
HDL is considered the “good” cholesterol. It transports cholesterol from different tissues in the body through the blood to the liver to be excreted. This protects the arteries from the “atherosclerotic process,” the hardening of the arteries and plaque formation. So higher HDL levels are associated with a decreased risk for heart disease.
Dr. Andrea Pennington, MD
Integrative Medicine Specialist
HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein. It's known as good cholesterol and is one of the five major groups of lipoproteins that enable lipids (fats) like cholesterol to be transported within the bloodstream.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is known as the good cholesterol. The more of this that is present in the blood, the lower your risk of developing clogged arteries.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.