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Good Cholesterol Might Not Affect Changes in Risk Factors for Heart Disease

Medical professionals call high-density lipoprotein (HDL) “good cholesterol.” Now they’re reconsidering because new research is questioning the value of this type of cholesterol across racial lines.

Researchers at the Knight Cardiovascular Institute at Oregon Health and Science University examined 23,901 medical samples from the Study on Reasons for Geographical and Racial Differences in Stroke (RESARDS).

They also compared risk factors for cardiovascular events in middle-aged Black and White people.

This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It is a medical research institute and part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Additionally, the researcher published the study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology on Monday, November 21st.

Researchers narrowed down their findings to thousands of REGARDS respondents who participated in the survey between 2003 and 2007. They also followed the patient’s medical history for 10 to 11 years.

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Cholesterol Count

Black and White respondents would have the same cholesterol level. Additionally, they had similar risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and smoking.

For the past decades, researchers discovered that 664 Black participants and 951 White participants underwent a heart attack or a heart attack-linked death. 

“It’s been well accepted that low HDL cholesterol levels are detrimental, regardless of race. Our research tested those assumptions,” the study’s senior author, Nathalie Pamir, said in a statement, per the NIH. 

“The goal was to understand this long-established link that labels HDL as the beneficial cholesterol, and if that’s true for ethnicities.” 

Notably, Pamir serves as an associate medicine professional at Oregon Health & Science University, Portland. 

They had favorably watched high-density lipoprotein. This is due to its cholesterol-absorption effects in the blood. Furthermore, it takes the HDL to the liver, per the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

The liver allegedly dislodges cholesterol from the body. This can reduce an individual’s potential risk of heart disease and stroke if high HDL cholesterol levels exist. 

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Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), commonly known as “bad cholesterol,” makes up the bulk of the body’s cholesterol, according to the CDC.

If a patient possesses high levels of LDL, then he may be subject to a higher chance of heart disease and stroke. 

“When your body has too much LDL cholesterol, the LDL cholesterol can build up on the walls of your blood vessels,” the CDC said. “This buildup is called ‘plaque.’” 

The novel research’s probe of the REGARDS data affirmed that high levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides (neutral fats) led to “modestly increased risks for cardiovascular disease,” per the NIH. 

They found that lower rates of HDL raised cardiovascular disease chances for White participants. However, it wasn’t the case for Black participants, per the study. 

Meanwhile, the study identified that high rates of HDL cholesterol don’t mean a lower risk of cardiovascular cases – no matter the race. 

The study’s authors deduced that cardiovascular disease risk determinators that use HDL cholesterol level measurements could come back with a defective forecast for Black participants. 

“HDL cholesterol has long been an enigmatic risk factor for cardiovascular disease,” Sian Coady said in a statement. Coady is a deputy branch chief of epidemiology at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Division of Cardiovascular Sciences. 

“The findings suggest that a deeper dive into the epidemiology of lipid metabolism is warranted,” Coady added. “Especially in terms of how race may modify or mediate these relationships.”