By the way, doctor: Should I take something to increase my HDL?

Q I take 20 mg of Lipitor and 10 mg of Zetia. My total cholesterol has declined from 177 to 145, my LDL from 133 to 93, but my "good" HDL cholesterol also went down from 46 to 41. Would you consider my low HDL level a large risk factor? If so, is there a regimen that would increase it?

A You shouldn't be concerned. As you know, you want to lower your total cholesterol and your "bad" LDL cholesterol to protect against heart disease. You've done that. True, it's also good to increase your HDL. But the fact is that neither Lipitor (atorvastatin) nor ezetimibe (Zetia) is very good at raising HDL.

But many studies have shown that the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL or, alternatively, the ratio of LDL to HDL, is what counts most here. If you do the math, you'll see that both ratios have improved considerably for you.

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