HDL, or ‘good’ cholesterol, may not be as useful in predicting the risk of heart disease as previously thought, according to a new study.

The study examined data from 23,901 US individuals who took part in the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke Study.

Researchers analysed how cholesterol levels from Black and white middle-aged people without heart disease resident in the United States overlapped with future cardiovascular events.

Study participants enrolled between 2003 and 2007 and data was collected over a 11 year period.

During the research period, 664 black people and 951 white adults died from a heart attack or a heart attack-related cause.

Participants with higher levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or ‘bad’ cholesterol and triglycerides had a slightly higher risk of heart disease, which was consistent with prior study findings.

However, it was discovered that HDL cholesterol levels only predicted an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in white adults.

Higher levels of HDL cholesterol, according to the study, were not protective for either racial group.

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance made in the liver that is important for good health and is making cell walls, tissues, hormones, vitamin D, and bile acid. There are 2 main types of cholesterol which have different effects.

HDL cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein) absorbs cholesterol in the blood and transports it to the liver. It is then flushed from the body by the liver.

LDL cholesterol is commonly referred to as ‘bad’ cholesterol as it accumulates in the walls of the blood vessels and increases the risk of health problems such as a heart attack or stroke.

Prior studies which shaped ideas about HDL cholesterol levels and the heart took place in the 1970s.

Study participants were overwhelmingly white adults according to experts at Oregon Health & Science University.

Author of the study, Dr Pamir said: “I hope this type of research establishes the need to revisit the risk-predicting algorithm for cardiovascular disease. It could mean that in the future we don’t get a pat on the back by our doctors for having higher HDL cholesterol levels.”

“When it comes to risk factors for heart disease, they cannot be limited to one race or ethnicity. They need to apply to everyone.”

The study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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