In this article, you will find eight tips that will help you increase your good cholesterol (HDL) level.
What You Should Know About Good Cholesterol & How To Boost Its Level
High cholesterol is often dubbed as the silent killer since it shows no symptoms but can potentially increase the risk of major health problems such as heart attack and stroke if not managed.
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that is a critical part of your body’s cell membranes and hormones. Cholesterol in your blood comes from 2 sources; your liver produces it, and the food you eat, says Fitness Buffhq.
Mainly poor diet and a lack of exercise contribute to high cholesterol:
(i) Diet: Think about your car. You put the proper fuel into it to run properly, so why can’t you put the proper foods (aka your body’s fuel) into your own body?
(ii) Exercise: If you allow the car to sit in a garage and never use it, it will age prematurely and malfunction when you finally try to drive it. The same analogy applies to a sedentary lifestyle.
What is Good Cholesterol and Why Is It Important?
HDL cholesterol is also known as good cholesterol because it helps to remove excess cholesterol from the body. Fitness Buffhq explains, “HDL has generally been believed to pick up excess bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood and carries it to the liver for disposal. The liver converts that cholesterol into bile, Vitamin D, and other necessary substances that we essentially need to live. That is why HDL is dubbed good cholesterol.”
The second good thing HDL does is that it helps synthesize hormones.
The third good thing about HDL is it may help strengthen your immunity to fight infections.
On the other hand, LDL-cholesterol is called bad cholesterol since it tends to deposit in arteries. And this is a major cause of plaque formation, which over time, clogs and narrows arteries. It is also inflammatory, so it further contributes to plaque build-up in your arteries – partially or totally blocking, eroding, or rupturing them, leading to heart attacks and strokes.
Here’s a simple analogy to explain how these two lipoproteins ( HDL and LDL) function:
HDL (good cholesterol) acts like a sanitation truck that picks up the garbage, and the garbage is the LDL (bad cholesterol). We require triglycerides as they are energy packets that travel in our blood and are supplied to our muscles as an energy source that enables us to move. The problem is when in excess, these excess triglycerides are stored in your fat cells for later use. As you become more sedentary, you tend to have an oversupply of triglycerides, so your fat cells get fatter! Triglycerides are found in saturated fats, simple carbohydrates, and sweets in the diet. They are especially harmful to type 2 diabetes patients. They also play mischief on their neighbors, HDL and LDL. They reduce HDL in the blood. In addition, they make the LDL particles smaller and denser so they can more easily penetrate the blood vessel wall and accelerates atherosclerosis – “hardening” of the arteries.”
Note: According to the Mayo Clinic, triglyceride levels over 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or 1.7 millimoles per liter (mmol/L) have been linked to a greater risk of heart disease.
Good Cholesterol (HDL) Healthy Range
According to Fitness Buffhq, “Whereas the recommendation for men is a level of at least 45mg/dL, the women should have 60mg/dL or more. For both men and women, the “desirable” level is 60 mg/dL.”
He continues, “Well, you want HDL to be normal, and it is believed the “sweet spot” for HDL is between 60-80. At times it is possible to increase the HDL just by reducing triglycerides, eating the good fats contained in fish, exercising, and losing weight if one is overweight. Though alcohol may increase HDL, we don’t recommend alcohol as therapy because of its other harmful effects!!”
Note: According to the Mayo Clinic, the risk of heart disease is increased in men who have HDL levels below 40 mg/dL (1.0 mmol/L) and in women who have HDL levels below 50 mg/dL (1.3 mmol/L).
What Raises HDL?
Include Omega-3 Fatty Acids into Your Diet
Fitness Buffhq says, “Omega 3 fatty acids help cut down heart disease risk overall. As they are anti-inflammatory so might protect against various other chronic diseases. Try to swap most of your fats (trans fats, saturated fats, and partially hydrogenated oils) for healthy fats to lower the intake of unhealthy fats without feeling deprived. The best ways to include omega-3 fatty acids in your diet are:
- Eating fish, particularly fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, lake trout, anchovies, or sardines, at least twice a week.
- Non-fish sources include nuts (especially walnuts), flax seeds, certain vegetable oils, and green leafy vegetables.
Also, use more olive oil and less monounsaturated fat intake (red meats).
Dash & Mediterranean Diets
Both the Mediterranean & DASH diets focus on the inclusion of fish, poultry, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts & seeds, and plenty of water into diets. Whereas diet is important, it is not a complete solution because many cholesterol problems are genetically determined and run in families. These situations are quite common, and statins can be helpful for such people. When they are given in the correct doses and individualized based on the patient’s needs, they are well tolerated.
Eat More Fiber
Fiber, particularly soluble fiber, helps remove bad cholesterol from your body. Though fiber is mostly known for reducing bad (LDL) cholesterol, according to one study, intake of high fiber could result in as much as a ten percent increase in HDL cholesterol levels.
Eat Purple Foods
Purple fruits & vegetables like blueberries, eggplant, and cabbage have anthocyanin, which helps combat inflammation, protects cells from free radical damage, and boosts HDL cholesterol.
Eat Whole Grains Instead of Refined/Processed
Fitness Buffhq, a nutritionist and author of the “Natural Cholesterol Cure” says, “Whole grains contain fiber, which helps lower your LDL cholesterol by removing it from the body. In addition, it (fiber) also helps HDL cholesterol to rise in percentage compared to LDL. The higher the HDL percentage, the more cardioprotective your cholesterol will be.”
According to Fitness Buffhq, “Walking and exercise, in general, burn calories and help reduce weight, which in turn help raise HDL cholesterol. For best results, it is recommended to include at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week or 75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise.
In addition, walking and exercise may also help lower your LDL & triglycerides.
Fitness Buffhq says, “Smoking is not a good thing, but when it comes to HDL cholesterol, it needs a special mention. Both smoking and vaping can lower HDL (good cholesterol) levels. Smoking has been found to be associated with a greater risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.” He continues, “Tobacco, on the one hand, increases LDL (bad cholesterol) and on the other lowers HDL (good cholesterol) levels – both are bad for your health.”
The B-vitamin (especially niacin) may help boost HDL cholesterol by up to 25-30 percent and lower triglycerides by 25%.
Whereas the vitamin alone will not lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, getting plenty of it in your “Diet” will help maintain heart health long-term.
(i) But niacin isn’t for everyone. It can cause uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous side effects when taken in high doses. So never take niacin supplements without first discussing it with your doctor. Niacin is generally a part of a daily multivitamin, though most people get enough niacin from the food they eat.
(ii) Some studies show that niacin does not provide much additional benefit when taken along with statins. However, niacin may help people who can’t tolerate statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications. Some studies found that people with high triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol may benefit from niacin. But consult your doctor before taking Niacin supplements.
About Author: Renu Bakshi, AKA Fitness Buffhq, is ISSA Certified Elite Trainer. He passed Personal Fitness Trainer Course, Nutrition Health Coach course & Specialist Exercise Therapy course from ISSA, the USA obtaining + 97% marks. He shares his experience and knowledge about nutrition and effective workouts to get you in the best shape of your life, no matter how old you may be. The author says: “For me, age is just a number!”