What number of HDL cholesterol should I aim for?

A good goal for HDL cholesterol is 40 milligrams per deciliter or higher. If your number is below 40 mg/dl, you should consider discussing it with your family doctor to see what it means for you. In general, people with low HDL cholesterol levels are at increased risk for heart attacks and strokes.
James A. Underberg, MD
Internal Medicine
Optimal levels for HDL cholesterol have been set by different groups. Less than 40 mg/dL in men and less than 50 mg/dL in women are considered "low”. While these levels may track with risk for heart disease for groups of patients (populations), there is no evidence that trying to raise HDL cholesterol with medications reduces risk for heart attacks or stroke. If your HDL cholesterol is low, careful consideration by your physician to understand why it is low is important. Treating the underlying cause, and targeting the LDL Cholesterol and then another target called "non-HDL cholesterol" is what our current national guidelines suggest. HDL Cholesterol has many roles, in most cases protective for heart disease, but also in most cases NOT measured by traditional testing. Careful consideration of these factors is necessary to any complete cardiovascular risk evaluation.
Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine
Guidelines from the National Cholesterol Education Program consider high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels of 60 mg/dL or above protective against heart disease, while levels of less than 40 mg/dL are regarded as too low and increase your risk.

To boost your HDL, your best bets are to lose weight, eat well (paying particular attention to minimizing unhealthy fats and consuming more heart-healthy fats), engage in more physical activity, stop smoking, and drink alcohol in moderation (no more than one drink a day for women and two for men). Certain medications can also help to raise HDL levels.

HDL cholesterol levels should ideally be above 60. Watch this video to learn more from Dr. Curtis Mann about HDL cholesterol.

HDL is the "good " cholesterol in your body. With this number, the higher, the better. A low level of HDL cholesterol increases your risk of heart disease. A blood level of 40 mg/dL or more is the target number for HDL.

Continue Learning about Cholesterol

Cholesterol Treatments You Need to Know About
Cholesterol Treatments You Need to Know About
About 78 million Americans have high cholesterol, but only about 55 percent of those are being treated for it. High cholesterol raises your risk for h...
Read More
What are guidelines for low-density lipoprotein blood cholesterol levels?
The following are the National Cholesterol Education Program guidelines for low-density lipoprot...
More Answers
6 Cholesterol Mistakes You're Probably Making
6 Cholesterol Mistakes You're Probably Making6 Cholesterol Mistakes You're Probably Making6 Cholesterol Mistakes You're Probably Making6 Cholesterol Mistakes You're Probably Making
Skipping healthy fats? Staying too long at happy hour? These everyday slipups can sabotage your heart health.
Start Slideshow
4 Tips to Hit 10,000 Steps a Day
4 Tips to Hit 10,000 Steps a Day

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.