Cholesterol: How to Raise Your 'Good' Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance found in the blood and in all cell membranes; it is also used to form some of our hormones. It is an integral part of a normal person's body and important to normal functioning. Out of control cholesterol can cause multiple health issues.
“Good” HDL (high density lipoprotein) cholesterol protects the heart by sweeping up cholesterol and clearing it from the arteries. This is why a low HDL level increases your risk of heart disease. LDL cholesterol is often termed “the bad cholesterol” because high levels are associated with increased risk of heart disease. The laboratory test for HDL actually measures how much cholesterol is in the HDL, not the actual amount of HDL in the blood.
It’s harder to increase HDL or "good" cholesterol than it is to lower LDL or total cholesterol. It’s estimated that up to 80% of the variation in HDL from person to person is due to genetic factors. There are steps you can take that have been shown to boost HDL—and they are worth taking because they also lower total cholesterol and help protect the heart in many ways beyond their effect on HDL. While genes strongly influence HDL levels, you can at least improve your numbers modestly. Regular physical activity is most effective, but diet plays a role too.
Anything under 40 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), is considered low. While there are a few drugs that raise HDL, there's little evidence that taking them reduce the risk of heart attack.
In general, your risk for heart disease, including a heart attack, increases if your HDL cholesterol level is less than 40 mg/dL.
- Men are at particular risk if their HDL is below 37 mg/dL.
- Women are at particular risk if their HDL is below 47 mg/dL.
- An HDL 60 mg/dL or above helps protect against heart disease.
- Women tend to have higher HDL cholesterol than men.
Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.
The good news is that a number of lifestyle changes that are clearly good for your heart and overall health can also raise your HDL. Here's what can help:
- Exercise: Regular aerobic exercise may boost HDL levels by about 11 percent, some research suggests. Try to get in about 30 minutes five times a week. Exercise has the greatest effect on lowering triglycerides and raising HDL, the “good” cholesterol. Exercise does not have much impact on LDL, the “bad” cholesterol unless combined with dietary changes and weight loss.
- Lose weight. If you’re overweight, losing a few pounds can help; for every 6 pounds you drop, you may increase your HDL level by 1 mg/dL.
- Choose healthier fats. Eating more monounsaturated fats (in avocados, nuts, and olive and canola oil) was found in one study to increase HDLs by 12.5 percent. Fish rich in omega-3 oil can boost HDLs, too. Also helpful is eating two to three servings per week of fatty, low-mercury fish like wild or canned salmon, sardines, pollock, or tilapia.
- Avoid refined carbohydrates Refined carbohydrates negatively impact HDL and raise LDL (bad news). Eat whole grains Whole, intact grains contain soluble fiber and niacin, both of which raise HDL and may lower LDL. Limiting intake of simple carbohydrates is usually helpful, in particular if triglycerides are elevated. This is often the case in obese people and those with metabolic syndrome.
- Don't smoke. If you smoke, ask your doctor for help quitting. Stopping isn't easy, but you can increase your odds of success by trying more than one strategy at a time.
- Watch your meds. Talk with your doctor if you take a beta-blocker or benzodiazepine, because that can reduce HDL levels.
- Drink alcohol 1-2 drinks per day can be as effective as exercise in raising HDL levels. However too much alcohol raises risk for a variety of health issues and addiction.
There are many options for helping lower your cholesterol. Changing from an unhealthy diet to a healthy diet can reduce a cholesterol level. However, dietary changes alone rarely lower a cholesterol level enough to change a person's risk of cardiovascular disease from a high-risk category to a lower-risk category. However, any extra reduction in cholesterol due to diet will help.
Focusing on an overall healthy lifestyle is the best way to keep your lipid levels as healthy as can be.
An excellent cholesterol supplement that includes many important natural ingredients is Cholesterol Complete™ (click here to view). It’s a powerful all-natural formula that targets both types of cholesterol; LDL (low density lipoprotein) and HDL (high density lipoprotein). LDL is the cholesterol you should be most concerned with, it is the “bad” cholesterol that clogs arteries and raises blood pressure. HDL is the “good” cholesterol that helps remove LDL from the body. You’re supporting healthy cholesterol with 100% natural approach!