Over the years people have come to understand that so-called "good" cholesterol protects them from heart disease. New research confirms that high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, cholesterol does stave off cardiovascular troubles – but only so long as two other indicators are in line too.
HDL may not be protective if the "bad" cholesterol, or LDL, and triglycerides, or TG, are not at normal levels, even if the good cholesterol is high, said Dr. Michael Miller, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and preventive cardiologist at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
"There's no question that HDL does have a protective role, as we also confirm in the study, but HDL has been hyped-up," Miller said in a statement. "HDL really should be viewed as a third priority, with LDL on top and TG second."
The study, published online in the journal Circulation, followed 3,590 men and women without known cardiovascular disease between 1987 and 2011.
"Nobody has really looked at an isolated low and isolated high HDL, and whether or not other factors, such as triglycerides and LDL, make a difference in the risk of cardiovascular disease," Miller said.
Miller concluded that HDL is not an independent predictor of heart health. Boosting good cholesterol naturally or through medications won't alone reduce disease risk.