5 Simple Steps to Healthy HDL Cholesterol Levels

You have probably heard about how high levels of cholesterol increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. This is true if you have high levels of LDL cholesterol, or the “bad” cholesterol, which tends to deposit in the arteries. If left unchecked, LDL deposits may clog the arteries and block flow of blood to the heart, triggering a heart attack. As many as 71 million American adults have high LDL levels, according to the CDC, which puts them at risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

On the other hand, high levels of HDL cholesterol, or the “good” cholesterol,  protects against heart attack by removing LDL cholesterol deposited in the arteries and carrying it to the liver for excretion through the digestive system. However, HDL cholesterol can only do this when circulating levels are more than 60 mg/dL. The Mayo Clinic recommends making lifestyle changes to raise levels of HDL for a healthy heart.

Eat Healthy Fats

Make a commitment to eat healthy fats. A diet high in omega-3 fatty acids such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, olive oil, walnuts, flaxseed oil and green leafy vegetables; but low in carbohydrates increases HDL levels, reports a 2009 article published in the “International Journal of Women’s Health”.   However, foods that contain saturated or trans fats are not heart-healthy as these fats tend to raise levels of the “bad” LDL cholesterol. Reading food labels  is the best way of avoiding these fats.

Lose Weight

HDL cholesterol levels increase when you lose inches around your waist as well as pounds off your total weight.  A 2012 study reported in the journal “Atherosclerosis” found that weight loss increased HDL levels. Mayo Clinic reports that in addition to helping you attain a healthy weight, a loss of just six pounds may increase HDL levels by 1mg/dL.

Work Out

Change your lifestyle to include physical activity. This helps boost HDL cholesterol levels while reducing levels of LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol and triglycerides. An article in the January 2012 issue of the “American Journal of Cardiology” reports that physical activity increases in HDL levels.  Take your pick of physical activity: walk briskly, jog, dance, bike, swim or do any other physical activity for 30 minutes every day.

If you are pressed for time, split the 30 minutes into three short aerobic daily workouts. When you change your sedentary habits for ones that include regular exercise, you will not only be able to maintain healthy levels of HDL cholesterol but you may lose weight and feel physically fit as well.

Don’t Smoke

Stop smoking if you do. Studies show that smokers have lower HDL cholesterol levels than non-smokers, and are, therefore, more at risk of suffering from heart attack and stroke. In 2012, University of Florida researchers identified benzo(a)pyrene, or BaP as the toxic chemical in cigarette smoke that lowers production of HDL. Although it is hard to quit, you may see the benefits of not smoking within 2 weeks of quitting because that is how soon HDL cholesterol levels can go up.

Just One Drink

If you drink – a little alcohol goes a long way in improving levels of HDL cholesterol. One drink a day increases HDL cholesterol levels and reduces risk of heart disease. But don’t hit the bottle hard – high intakes of alcohol have the opposite effect on your heart. On a final note, don’t start drinking if you never have, or if you have liver problems.

Was this blog helpful? You may be interested in other posts on this topic:

Photo credit: Dr. Abdullah Naser

Sukhsatej BatraSukhsatej Batra is a writer with a background in nutrition, who is passionate about promoting the benefits of a healthy lifestyle through her writing.

 

 

 

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