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.

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