A patient's HDL level indicates the amount of good cholesterol in the bloodstream, explains Mayo Clinic. High levels of HDL are associated with a lower risk of heart disease because HDL prevents bad cholesterol from clogging the arteries. Patients should aim for an HDL level above 60 milligrams per deciliter.
Patients who have low HDL levels can make a number of lifestyle changes to raise their HDL and reduce their risk of heart disease, according to Mayo Clinic. Smokers who quit may increase their HDL levels by up to 10 percent. Losing excess weight by increasing physical activity and choosing healthier foods also helps boost HDL. Studies suggest that moderate use of alcohol may help keep HDL levels high. Moderate alcohol intake means up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. Replacing foods that are high in saturated fat with oils that contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats also helps boost HDL.
Adults age 20 and older should have their cholesterol levels checked every four to six years, recommends the American Heart Association. The blood test report for cholesterol screening typically shows LDL, HDL, total cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Doctors take into account other risk factors such as family history, high blood pressure and age to determine how a patient's cholesterol levels are likely to affect the risk of heart disease.