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17-04-2011 | Cardiometabolic | Article

Lifestyle changes improve HDL cholesterol levels in men


Free abstract

MedWire News: Study findings indicate that reductions in body mass index (BMI) and increases in alcohol consumption are associated with significant long-term increases in levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol in men.

Adopting a sedentary lifestyle, however, was significantly associated with decreases in HDL cholesterol over time, report the researchers.

"Our results provide further support for the promotion of maintaining a low BMI, pursuing a physically active lifestyle, and other beneficial lifestyle factors," say Catherine Rahilly-Tierney (Massachusetts Veterans Epidemiology and Information Research Center, Boston) and colleagues.

The team examined associations between changes in HDL cholesterol and four lifestyle factors: BMI, alcohol consumption, exercise, and smoking using data from over 4000 male physicians over a 14-year follow-up period.

The mean HDL cholesterol levels were 42.2 (1.09 mmol/l) at baseline and 43.2 mg/dl (1.12 mmol/l) at follow-up.

The researchers found that maintaining a stable BMI of less than 25 kg/m2, or a BMI reduction from above to below 25 kg/m2 was significantly associated with increases in HDL cholesterol (4.3 and 1.5 mg/dl [0.11 and 0.04 mmol/l], respectively) over time.

Rahilly-Tierney et al also note that consistent moderate alcohol consumption (≥1 drink per day) or increasing alcohol consumption from less than one drink per day to one or more per day was associated with significant increases in HDL cholesterol (6.2 and 2.4 mg/dl [0.16 and 0.06 mmol/l], respectively).

However, men who engaged in regular physical activity (exercised ≥1 time per week) at baseline, but who had become more sedentary (exercised <1 time per week) at follow-up had significant reductions in mean levels of HDL cholesterol levels over the 14-year period (2.0 mg/dl [0.05 mmol/l]).

"This study demonstrates that adopting or maintaining favorable lifestyle habits is associated with increases in HDL cholesterol, whereas adopting or maintaining unfavorable habits may result in decreases in HDL cholesterol over time," the team concludes in the American Heart Journal.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Nikki Withers