Your HDL Cholesterol Level

What Causes Low HDL Cholesterol Level?

Low HDL cholesterol level can have various causes, ranging in severity from 'worrying' to 'serious'.  Finding the true cause means ruling out or confirming each possibility – in other words, diagnosis.

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Diagnosis is usually a complex process due to the sheer number of possible causes and related symptoms.  In order to diagnose low HDL cholesterol level, we could:

  • Research the topic
  • Find a doctor with the time
  • Use a diagnostic computer system.
The process is the same, whichever method is used.

Step 1: List all Possible Causes

We begin by identifying the disease conditions which have "low HDL cholesterol level" as a symptom.  Here are eight of many possibilities (more below):
  • A Weight Problem
  • Diabetes II
  • Overtraining
  • Atherosclerosis
  • High LDL/HDL Ratio
  • Birth Control Pill Issues
  • Heart Disease
  • Alcohol Consequences

Step 2: Build a Symptom Checklist

We then identify all possible symptoms and risk factors of each possible cause, and check the ones that apply:
being a motivated person
sleeping more than necessary
no multiple vitamin use
short-term low-carb dieting
shortness of breath when at rest
high diastolic blood pressure
having high percentage body fat
severe vision disturbances
heart attack(s) in father
history of atherosclerosis
yellow/yellowish fingernails
moderate unexplained weight gain
... and more than 80 others

Step 3: Rule Out or Confirm each Possible Cause

A differential diagnosis of your symptoms and risk factors finds the likely cause of low HDL cholesterol level:
Cause Probability Status
Atherosclerosis 90% Confirm
Alcohol Consequences 24% Unlikely
Diabetes II 22% Unlikely
Birth Control Pill Issues 5% Ruled out
Overtraining 0% Ruled out
A Weight Problem 0% Ruled out
Heart Disease 0% Ruled out
High LDL/HDL Ratio 0% Ruled out
* This is a simple example to illustrate the process

Arriving at a Correct Diagnosis

The Analyst™ is our online diagnosis tool that learns all about you through a straightforward process of multi-level questioning, providing diagnosis at the end.

If you indicate having had recent lab tests, The Analyst™ will ask further questions including this one:
Cholesterol, HDL. What is your fasting HDL cholesterol level? Unit: mg/dL [mmol/L]
Possible responses:
→ Don't know
→ Under 21 [0.54]
→ 21 to 35 [0.54-0.92]
→ 36 to 60 [0.93-1.55] (normal)
→ Over 60 [1.55]
Based on your response to this question, which may indicate very low HDL cholesterol level, low HDL cholesterol level, average HDL cholesterol level or excellent HDL cholesterol level, The Analyst™ will consider possibilities such as:
Alcohol-related Problems

Elevated levels of HDL cholesterol are generally considered to have a protective effect against cardiovascular disease.  However, very elevated levels can be a result of liver disease or chronic intoxication.

The Effects Of Overtraining

Very vigorous exercise and regular long-term heavy aerobic exercise can cause HDL levels to become especially elevated.  This is in keeping with the fact that exercise raises HDL levels, and demonstrates that overexertion produces further elevations.  It is unlikely that there are any negative effects from this elevation, only cardiovascular benefits.

... and also rule out issues such as:
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