How To Naturally Boost Your HDL Cholesterol
Let’s take a few minutes to talk about how you can improve your HDL cholesterol or high density lipoprotein. Higher values of this lipoprotein have been associated with improved cardiovascular risk profiles, including reduced risk of strokes and heart attacks.
1. Eat healthier
This means that you choose a dietary pattern that is filled with healthier fats and cut out the bad ones. You want to increase mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids and cut out trans fat and saturated fats. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats have been shown to improve your lipid profile, including increasing your HDL.
A general rule of thumb for fat intake is that it should make up about ⅓ of your diet, anywhere from 25-35%.
Good sources of mono- and polyunsaturated fats: vegetable oils (olive, canola, peanut, sunflower and sesame), many fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, trout), and many nuts and seeds (eg, walnuts, sunflower seeds). Foods in these categories are healthy for many reasons, but they have been shown to improve HDL cholesterol.
2. Increase your physical activity
Exercising has been shown to improve your lipid profile as well, including HDL. Your target should be about 150 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week. This can include cardio such as running or bicycling, playing sports and working out.
In addition to improving your HDL, physical activity has been shown to benefit your health in many other ways including reducing your risk of heart attack, stroke, dementia and diabetes.
3. Lose weight
Losing weight is part of the conversation when you talk about diet and exercise, but losing weight alone has been shown to improve HDL cholesterol. And this makes sense, if you decrease your bodies adiposity, you’re going to increase the amount of healthy fats you have in your system and decrease the unhealthy ones. One study showed for every 6 pounds (2.7 kg) you lose, your HDL may increase by 1 mg/dL.
4. Quit smoking
Smokers have been shown to have a lower HDL cholesterol than non smokers. Similarly, smokers who quit smoking have been shown to improve their HDL cholesterol. Quitting smoking is difficult as nicotine is one of the most addictive substances known to man. However, smoking increases your risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke and it’s important that you take quitting smoking seriously for your own health.
5. Drink alcohol in moderation.
Alcohol consumption in moderation has been linked to healthier lipid profiles, including HDL cholesterol. Moderation means no more than 1 drink per day for men and women over 65 and no more than 2 per day for men under 65. One drink is considered 12 oz beer, 1.5 oz liquor or 5 oz wine. It’s worth noting the evidence is not entirely clear that alcohol in moderation is lowering cholesterol, and that there may be other factors involved.
6. Pharmaceutical options
Finally, if you have tried all the appropriate lifestyle changes while working with your doctor, there are drug options which may be helpful. You need to talk to your physician about which is best for you, but this includes niacin, Statins (Crestor, Lipitor, etc), Fibrates (Tricor, Lopid).