en de
Affiliate links on our site may earn us commissions. Learn More.
HDL Cholesterol Level Chart: Symptoms and Causes
HDL 81: How to Maintain Optimal Cholesterol Levels?
HDL Cholesterol Level Chart: Symptoms and Causes

HDL 81: How to Maintain Optimal Cholesterol Levels?

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on May 26, 2023
5 min

Cholesterol testing is an essential tool for keeping your heart strong and healthy. If you’re wondering what an HDL cholesterol measurement of 81 means, keep reading. In this article, we discuss this measurement and provide tips to keep your levels in the normal range.

What Does an HDL 81mg/dL Mean?

An HDL cholesterol level of 81mg/dL is optimal.

It means your HDL cholesterol levels are in the healthy range, which is between 61–99mg/dL. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is known as good cholesterol because it absorbs other forms of cholesterol in the bloodstream and returns it to the liver for disposal.

The higher HDL levels you have, the better your health. Higher levels are linked to a lower risk of developing heart disease1, heart attack, and stroke. Without enough high-density lipoprotein in your blood, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol can build up and clog your arteries.

A blood test is the only way to determine if your HDL levels are in the normal range. A test called a lipid panel, or lipid profile, measures your total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and triglycerides.

HDL Cholesterol Levelsmg/dL
Low ❌<40–60
Optimal ✅61–99
High ✅100<

How Often Is It Recommended to Measure HDL Cholesterol Levels?

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) recommends that younger adults have cholesterol screenings every 5 years2. Men between the ages of 45 and 65 and women between 55 and 65 should have a cholesterol test every 1–2 years, and those over 65 should test yearly.

Some people may need to test more frequently3, such as those with heart disease, diabetes, or a family history of high LDL cholesterol levels. You might also require repeat testing if your blood cholesterol levels are not within the optimal range for your age and sex.

Checking your cholesterol levels is important for managing your long-term health. Knowing your HDL cholesterol level allows you to take action, if necessary, to improve your HDL levels. You can then benefit from a lower risk of heart disease, heart attack, and high blood pressure.

For easy monitoring at home, you can try the Cardi Health app. This app is designed to help you better understand your heart health by keeping you fully informed. With real-time insights into your heart’s performance, you can take control and make healthier lifestyle choices.

Cardi Health logo
Key benefits
  • Personalized activity plan to suit the user
  • Personalized nutrition plan
  • Takes into account dietary requirements, preferences, and allergies
  • Action plans generated from the tracking tool
  • Real-time insights into your heart’s health performance
Our rating:
Start Cardi.Health Quiz

Cardi Health organizes your important heart-related data and stores it in one place. It features heart rate, blood pressure, and cholesterol tracking, so you can ensure your HDL levels remain healthy. You can also benefit from a nutrition and activity plan based on your measurements.

How to Maintain Optimal HDL Levels

A reading that shows you have optimal HDL levels is a great sign. All you need to do next is ensure your HDL level remains between 61 and 99mg/dL to keep your health in check. You can do many things to maintain higher HDL levels and lower LDL cholesterol levels.

Here are three of the best ways to keep your good cholesterol.

#1 Eat a clean diet

A clean diet is rule number one to ensure higher HDL levels and lower LDL levels. It’s also key to preventing or reducing other risk factors of heart disease, like high blood pressure and obesity. It will also help you keep a healthy weight, naturally promoting higher levels.

Your body needs nutritious foods to function optimally. A balanced diet4 consists of whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Salmon, sardines, mackerel, olive oil, and leafy greens are among the best foods you can eat.

Meanwhile, you should avoid foods that don’t benefit your heart. Foods high in sodium, sugar, saturated fat, and trans fats increase your risk of heart disease, heart attack, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. Examples include processed meats, deep-fried foods, and baked goods.

Eating too many of these foods can reduce good cholesterol and cause higher levels of dangerous LDL. So, keep your HDL level between 61 and 99mg/dL by eating a clean diet with plenty of whole foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and disease-fighting antioxidants.

#2 Stay hydrated

Maintaining adequate hydration is vital for your overall health. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day helps balance HDL levels and prevent excess cholesterol buildup in the bloodstream. Otherwise, inadequate hydration can lead to increased cardiometabolic risk5.

Staying hydrated6 helps your heart function properly. It mitigates excess strain on the heart by enabling it to pump blood more effectively through the body. It also carries nutrients and oxygen to cells, helps lower high blood pressure, increases energy, and aids healthy digestion.

Water is the best fluid to stay hydrated. You can also get part of your daily water intake from certain foods like fruits and vegetables with high water content. Exact recommendations vary, but generally, 9 cups for women and 12 cups for men7.

#3 Get enough exercise

Regular physical activity improves overall cholesterol and promotes higher HDL levels. It strengthens your cardiovascular health8, reduces excess body fat, and helps you maintain a healthy weight. Ultimately, exercising is one of the best things you can do for your body.

You should get 150 minutes9 of moderate-intensity physical activity every week, including two days of exercise focusing on muscle strengthening. It sounds like a lot at first, but you can split your weekly 150-minute total into 30-minute sessions each day.

There are plenty of activities you can try, from brisk walking and slow jogging to cycling and going for long runs. Practicing these activities will help you hold onto your optimal HDL level reading. It can also boost your current reading to bring even more significant health benefits.

Other ways to maintain optimal HDL levels

Managing your HDL levels comes down to creating good habits and mitigating other risk factors that jeopardize your health. Aside from diet, good hydration, and working out regularly, there are several other ways you can maintain optimal HDL levels. These include:

  • Quit smoking
  • Reduce alcohol consumption 
  • Eating more foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly oily and fatty fish
  • Increasing your daily soluble fiber intake with sources such as oatmeal, black beans, kidney beans, flax seeds, apples, and pears
  • Losing weight if you are overweight or obese
  • Managing your stress levels
  • Getting enough sleep
Can my HDL cholesterol levels decrease due to certain lifestyle changes?

Yes, certain lifestyle changes can decrease your HDL levels and raise your LDL cholesterol levels, increasing your risk of developing heart disease. Smoking, lack of exercise, and eating a diet high in saturated and trans fat are risk factors for decreasing HDL levels.

What foods should I eat to maintain optimal HDL cholesterol levels?

A clean diet full of nutritious foods will help you maintain optimal HDL cholesterol levels. Your diet should include lots of heart-healthy fats, whole grains, and fiber-rich foods. Some excellent examples are olive oil, avocado, fatty fish, nuts, seeds, oatmeal, beans, and legumes.

  1. LDL and HDL Cholesterol and Triglycerides. (2022). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/ldl_hdl.htm 
  2. Article. Blood Cholesterol – Diagnosis. (2022). National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/blood-cholesterol/diagnosis 
  3. Get a Cholesterol Test. (2022). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/cholesterol_screening.htm
  4. Hellas Cena, Philip C. Calder. (2020). Defining a Healthy Diet: Evidence for the Role of Contemporary Dietary Patterns in Health and Disease. National Center for Biotechnology Information: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7071223/
  5. Paul F Jacques, Gail Rogers, Jodi Dunmeyer Stookey, Erica T Perrier. (2021). Water Intake and Markers of Hydration Are Related to Cardiometabolic Risk Biomarkers in Community-Dwelling Older Adults: A Cross-Sectional Analysis. Journal. The Journal of Nutrition: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8485913/
  6. Article. Staying Hydrated – Staying Healthy. (2014). Article. American Heart Association: https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/staying-hydrated-staying-healthy
  7. Arend-Jan Meinders, Arend E Meinders. (2010). How much water do we really need to drink? National Center for Biotechnology Information: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20356431/
  8. Kelsey Pinckard, Kedryn K. Baskin and Kristin I. Stanford. (2019). Review article. Effects of Exercise to Improve Cardiovascular Health. Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6557987/
  9. How much physical activity do adults need? (2022). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm
Written by
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Share on
facebook twitter pinterest linkedin