DEAR PEGGY: My son-in-law has just been told that his "good" cholesterol is quite low. How can he improve it? —E.T., Rosedale, Mississippi
With cholesterol, we often talk about the good versus the bad. "Good" cholesterol is high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and "bad" cholesterol is low-density lipoprotein (LDL). We want more of the good and less of the bad. In terms of numbers, an HDL of less than 40 mg/dl is considered poor; 40 to 60 mg/dl is better; and it's best above 60 mg/dl. LDL should be below 100 mg/dl for healthy people.
Good cholesterol actually contributes to cholesterol removal, and a high HDL is associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. The major ways to increase HDL are to get regular exercise and to lose excess weight, especially around the waist. Obesity, smoking and inactivity can all decrease HDL.