Cholesterol consists of two types, LDL or “bad” cholesterol and HDL or “good” cholesterol. The bad LDL type adheres to the walls of arteries and can eventually cause blockages to blood flow, triggering a heart attack or stroke. The good HDL cholesterol works to scrub the bad cholesterol from off the arterial walls and transport it to the liver where the LDL is broken down and eliminated.
It is important to make an effort to raise good cholesterol levels naturally because, for every point that you raise your HDL, it creates a 3% drop in the risk for heart attack or stroke. Men should have an HDL of 40 points or more while women should strive for a count of 50 points or more in order to maintain a healthy circulatory system. If a checkup by your doctor reveals a very high LDL then you may be prescribed medications to both lower the LDL and raise the HDL. Fibrates, statins and niacin are all substances contained within such drugs to regulate cholesterol levels. However, you can also self-regulate your cholesterol levels and raise your HDL count by making a few lifestyle changes.
Lifestyle Modifications that Help Raise HDL
The following healthy lifestyle modifications will add points to your HDL which, in turn, will lower your bad LDL cholesterol levels and increase your heart health.
Exercise- Performing at least 20-30 minutes of high intensity strength training and/or aerobics 3-5 days a week will help to get your heart pumping for an extended period of time, eliminate arterial blockages and give HDL a jumpstart on cleansing out your circulatory system. Download the MP45 Program which will have both your body and your HDL levels jacked in just 45 days through a proven strength and aerobic exercise routine coupled with sound nutritional guidance.
Lose Weight- HDL can be increased by roughly 1 ½ points per 10 pounds of weight loss. You should strive for a BMI (body mass index) of less than 25 in order to reap the full benefits.
Reduce Simple Carbohydrates- Eat less processed, simple carb foods such as cereals, breads, cookies and cakes. Simple carbs are high in glucose which tends to reduce HDL and increase harmful LDL and triglycerides.
Increase Soluble Fiber Foods- Adding foods to a nutritional diet such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits and nuts which are high in soluble fiber can help raise HDL.
Eat the Right Kinds of Fat- Foods high in saturated fats and trans fats increase LDL and are the source of large amounts of bad cholesterol. Red meats, dairy products made from whole-milk as well as coconut oil and milk, cocoa butter, palm oil and palm kernel oil are all high in saturated fats and should be avoided or used very sparingly. Instead, consume lean cuts of meats, plenty of fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods. Also, use oils which contain unsaturated fat like canola, olive and flaxseed oils.
Eat More Fish- Fish provides a good source of omega-3 fatty acids which help to raise HDL levels. Substitute fish for red meats several times a week for the best results. Especially choose fish from cold-water sources such as mackerel, salmon, etc as they have the most effect on raising HDL.
Drink Alcohol in Moderation- Recent studies have shown that alcohol consumed in moderation actually raises HDL levels as much as 4 points. However, the key word is “moderation” with men limited to 2 drinks per day and women to 1 drink per day. Drinking more than this can lead to a variety of health and addiction problems.
Don’t Smoke- Smoking increases LDL levels significantly. When you quit smoking, HDL levels can raise by as much as 4 points.