High density lipoprotein cholesterol is consistently related inversely to coronary heart disease (CHD) in numerous prospective studies. HDL is also associated with physiologic and health behavior characteristics. To evalute those relationships, 632 adults (age 20-59) from a geographic based random sample were surveyed. Measures included fasting plasma, blood pressure (BP), height, weight, treadmill performance (ET), and questions about nutrition and health habits. Participation rates in this population sample were consistently high (>80%). In univariate analysis, HDL was positively and significantly related to female sex (F), and exogenous hormone use (H), and negatively related to cigarette usage (CIG), body mass index (BMI), triglycerides (TG), very low density lipoprotein cholesterol (VLDL), and low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL). HDL was not related to total cholesterol (TC), BP, reported physical activity (PA), fitness by ET or reported alcohol (EtOH), tea, or coffee usage. Multivariate analysis demonstrated HDL independently related positively to F, H, age, heavy PA, EtOH, heavy coffee intake (>8 cups/day), and negatively to BMI, CIG, TG, VLDL, and LDL. It was not related to moderate coffee usage, ET, TC, or moderate PA. HDL is related to many modifiable health characteristics in these epidemiological data. Causal connections cannot be evaluated from these data; however, they must be considered in postulating mechanisms, evaluating patients, or planning intervention strategies.