Harvard Heart Letter

Ask the doctor: Concerns about low HDL

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Aerobic exercise can help
to boost your HDL.

Q. I have been taking a statin to bring down my LDL cholesterol, but my HDL is still on the low side. Do I need to worry about my HDL level if my LDL is okay? If so, what should I do?

A. The bottom line is that we do not know. There have been several large clinical trials to evaluate the use of medications to raise HDL, but so far no drug treatment for raising "good" HDL cholesterol has been shown to reduce cardiovascular risk in people already taking statin drugs to lower "bad" LDL cholesterol. Right now, the best bet for upping your HDL level is by making lifestyle changes, such as increasing your level of aerobic activity, losing weight, and—potentially—avoiding trans fats in your diet. You may also want to sign up for one of the current clinical trials looking at the effect of HDL-raising drugs in people already on statins with well-controlled LDL levels. You can find out about trials going on in your area at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Trials website (http://clinicaltrials.gov/)

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