All cholesterol isn’t the same. There’s HDL (good cholesterol) and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Both types of cholesterol molecules travel through the bloodstream in globular packages in combination with lipoproteins, and they perform different functions.
High-density lipoproteins (HDL) are small, dense molecules responsible for transporting cholesterol to the liver.
HDL is good for your body because it helps remove cholesterol from the arteries and protects against dangerous blockages (plaques) in the arteries. HDL cholesterol is also less likely than other forms of cholesterol to oxidize and leave sticky plaques on artery walls.
Your good HDL cholesterol hustles your bad LDL cholesterol to your liver to disposal before it can plant itself like barnacles in your arteries.
People who exercise, don’t smoke, and maintain a healthy weight tend to have higher levels of this “good” cholesterol. Low HDL levels can be a risk factor for coronary heart disease (CHD), while high levels (>60 mg/dL) help reduce CHD risk.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) carries the majority of cholesterol through your bloodstream and delivers it to the cells of the body. These molecules are larger, less dense, and less stable than HDL. They readily oxidize and deposit plaques on arterial walls to likely to clog arteries and lead to cardiovascular disease. That’s why LDL is known as the “bad” cholesterol.
When it comes to managing your cholesterol, you need to know the good stuff from the bad.
To improve your cholesterol , it helps to know how the different types of cholesterol affect your health. There’s LDL cholesterol — the kind that does a number on your arteries.
Here’s what may be driving up that LDL cholesterol.
Got high cholesterol? Start by taking a look at what’s on your plate. Poor diet is a leading culprit when it comes to unhealthy cholesterol levels. Eating a diet high in saturated fat and trans fatsincreases LDL (bad) and reduces HDL (good) cholesterol. Meats, eggs, and full-fat dairy products are particularly high in saturated fat, and any foods made with hydrogenated vegetable oils contain trans fats.
Your Doctor will want to keep an eye on triglycerides, a fatty acid that can also raise your risk of heart disease.
8 Ways to Raise HDL (“Good”) Cholesterol
You probably know all about the two types of cholesterol: HDL and LDL. Too much “bad” (LDL) cholesterol can gunk up your blood and clog your arteries. But “good” (HDL) cholesterol acts like a housekeeper for your blood, mopping up excess LDL and tossing it in the trash (your liver) for disposal. HDL also decreases inflammation and may protect against Alzheimer’s, too. How can you get
more HDL? Start with these 8 strategies.
is one of the simplest ways to improve your cholesterol. Regular walkers have higher levels of healthy HDL cholesterol and lower levels of “bad” LDL. They also have fewer heart attacks and strokes. Plus, walking has the highest stick-to-it rate of any exercise.
All you need is a comfortable pair of walking shoes, and you can walk just about anywhere, anytime. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week (more is even better). For the most cholesterol-lowering benefits, keep up a brisk pace — fast enough that you’re slightly breathless but still able to carry on a conversation.
If you’re new to exercise, check with your doctor before starting a walking program. He or she may tell you to begin with just 20 minutes a day, 4 days a week, and gradually increase your time and speed.
Obesity and low HDL tend to go hand-in-hand. But you don’t have to become runway-model thin to raise your good cholesterol . You can bump it up 1 point for every 6.6 pounds of excess body weight you drop.
Boost Your Vitamin B
Two B vitamins can help raise HDL: niacin (B3) and pantothenic acid (B5). But talk to your doc before taking a niacin supplement. It works, but it can also have side effects, including liver damage and intense hot flushing (you can reduce those flushes by taking the vitamin on a full stomach or taking two baby aspirin with a full glass of water 1 hour beforehand). A supplement containing 300 mg of pantothenic acid (B5) can also help increase your good cholesterol.
Opt for More Omega-3
Cold-water fish like salmon and trout are high in a particular type of omega-3 fatty acid called DHA(docosahexaenoic acid) that helps raise HDL cholesterol. (DHA also protects brain and eye health, and helps with weight control.) Also recommend is a daily 900-mg algae-based omega-3 supplement to ensure you get ample DHA.
Kick this habit to the curb and you’ll crank up your HDL by a whopping 4 points — and slash your risk of lung cancer and other life-threatening diseases. If you’ve struggled to quit smoking before, but failed, don’t give up. Sometimes it takes a new approach or two to succeed.
Drink Alcohol . . . in Moderation
A daily glass or two of red wine or other alcoholic beverage may help lower your risk for cardiovascular disease by up to 40%. That’s because the ethanol in all forms of alcohol helps increase HDL cholesterol and prevent blood clots. But the key is moderation — no more than one drink per day for the ladies, two for the gents.
Eat Less Sugar
Gobbling more than 90 grams of added sugar a day can jack up bad-for-you triglycerides and take a bite out of your HDL levels. Keep added sugars to under 100 calories (about 2 tablespoons) a day. That includes obvious sources, like a teaspoon of sugar in your morning coffee, as well as added sugars hidden in processed foods — everything from condiments and salad dressings to cereal.
Skip Bad-for-You Fat
Cut back on foods high in saturated and trans fats. These unhealthy fats raise bad LDL cholesterol, boost inflammation, and damage blood vessels. Trans fats also reduce HDL. Cut down on saturated fat by eating less meat and full-fat dairy. Aim for no more than 7% of your daily calories from saturated fat. Avoid trans fats by skipping processed food like cookies, crackers, margarines, or any product containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (aka, trans fats).