Having high levels of HDL, or good cholesterol may help men reach their 85th birthday, claims a new study.

According to the American Heart Association, HDL cholesterol helps remove excess cholesterol from the arteries, lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease; unlike LDL, or bad cholesterol which clogs arteries and increases the risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Researchers found men with higher HDL were 28% more likely to turn 85 (i.e. 28% less likely to die), compared to men with lower HDL levels.

Published in The American Journal of Cardiology, scientists analyzed medical records of 650 veterans at age 65 and then put them in groups based on their HDL levels. Researchers discovered men with low HDL were 14% less likely to live to 85 years old; 375 study participants survived to 85.

Additionally, data showed that fewer men with higher HDL cholesterol were overweight, drank too much alcohol (not more than 2 drinks per day), smoked, or had cardiovascular disease.

However, the researchers point out that it is difficult to raise HDL levels, saying that a drug eventually needs to be developed.

But some diet experts point to foods like avocados, lentils, peas, oatmeal, soybeans, and niacin containing foods - such as tomatoes, chicken breast, and mushrooms - help raise HDL cholesterol. Naicin (vitamin B3) helps block cholesterol production in the body.

Heart disease is the number one cause of death worldwide. In 2004, the World Health Organization says 1.7 million people died from cardiovascular diseases, such as stroke (5.7 million) and coronary artery disease (7.2 million).