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HDL: Good and brainy

Updated: February 01, 2008

The "good" cholesterol particle may help fend off strokes and dementia in addition to preventing heart disease, so it's time to pay it some mind.

High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is the "good" cholesterol particle. Under the right conditions, HDL scoops up cholesterol from macrophages that have infiltrated artery walls and deposits it in the liver, which then excretes the scavenged cholesterol harmlessly into the small intestine as bile salts. And HDL's benefits may go well beyond cholesterol removal. Studies suggest that it may retard inflammation, inhibit the formation of blood clots, and prevent oxidation of lipids, a central event in the artery-damaging atherosclerotic process. If HDL does all that, calling it the "good" cholesterol hardly seems adequate.

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