How Do I Increase My Good Cholesterol?

High levels of HDL cholesterol — at least 40 mg/dL for men and 50 mg/dL for women — appear to reduce heart disease.

High levels of HDL cholesterol — at least 40 mg/dL for men and 50 mg/dL for women — appear to reduce heart disease. That’s why it’s often referred to as "good" cholesterol. HDL removes cholesterol from plaque in blood vessels and delivers it to the liver for excretion. So far, efforts to increase HDL levels with drugs haven’t proven to reduce cardiac risk, and no HDL-enhancing drugs have been approved by the FDA. But there are some dietary and lifestyle changes that can help.

  1. Get physically active. Anything that raises your heart rate, like walking, jogging or swimming, also raises HDL. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes a day of moderate activity five days a week.
  2. Eat better fats. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, like olive or canola oil, can raise HDL levels without increasing total cholesterol. You should get 25 to 35 percent of your total calories from fat, and around 90 percent of those calories should come from unsaturated fats.
  3. Cut out trans fats. Listed on food labels as "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil," trans fats are common in processed foods. They can increase LDL "bad" cholesterol and decrease HDL.
  4. Lose weight. Being overweight increases LDL and reduces HDL. Losing even a few pounds will increase your HDL and lower your LDL and blood pressure.
  5. Stop smoking. Smoking decreases HDL levels, and stopping smoking may increase them.

None of the items on this list offers a cure for low HDL, but together – getting active, eating better, losing weight and not smoking – can improve your health AND your HDL.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

AD. American Heart Association Support Network. Everyone's diagnosis story is different and sharing yours can help others. Join the Support Network and share your experience.


AD: American Heart Association logo. Symptoms. Always feeling tired isn't normal. Learn the signs of Heart Valve Disease.


AD. American Heart Association logo. Know your blood pressure numbers. And what they mean. Gain Control. button: learn more.


AD. Heart Insight. Get the app for free.


Edit ModuleShow Tags

Special Topic Supplements

Edit ModuleShow Tags


Heart News

Heart health news you can use about new scientific findings, public policy, programs and resources.


Articles, poems and art submitted by heart disease survivors and their loved ones.

Life's Simple 7

Improving your health is as easy as minding seven simple health factors and behaviors. Tips and information to help you improve your health and enhance your quality of life.

Life Is Why

Everyone has a reason to live a longer, healthier life. These heart patients, their loved ones and others share their 'whys'. We'd love for you to share yours, too!

Simple Cooking

Cooking at home can be a daunting task, but a rewarding one for your diet and lifestyle (and your wallet). Making small changes in your diet is important to your heart health. Here are simple, healthy and affordable recipes and cooking tips.