There is a common misconception that cholesterol is generally harmful and that high levels of it are always a major concern. But in fact, there is a type of cholesterol that is not only good at high levels, but also reduces the risk of major health problems such as heart disease. This type of cholesterol already exists. It’s called HDL cholesterol and it’s our “good” cholesterol.
So, if there is cholesterol that is really good for us, how can we raise it naturally? The short answer is lifestyle. Your lifestyle actually has the biggest impact on your HDL cholesterol levels. Therefore, by changing completely manageable daily habits such as diet and exercise, you can improve your HDL cholesterol levels, thus reducing your risk of life-threatening health problems. Let’s start improving your HDL numbers because positive change can start today!
Natural ways to increase HDL cholesterol levels
Your genes play a role in determining how much HDL your body produces and what proportion of its different subtypes. Obviously, your genes are already made for you and beyond your control, but your lifestyle choices are under your control. Here are some of the best ways, and even some easy ways, to raise your HDL cholesterol levels:
1. Don’t smoke
As always, smoking only exacerbates health issues, including HDL levels. Studies show that smoking has a negative effect on high-density lipoproteins by lowering their levels, which increases the risk of coronary heart disease. So if you are a smoker, you are already increasing your risk of heart disease.
2. Exercise more
To maintain a healthy body, you need to exercise daily. If you want another specific reason to start exercising or increase your frequency, these are your HDL levels. Increasing physical activity directly contributes to raising HDL cholesterol levels. Another of the many benefits of exercise. Vigorous exercise is the best option for increasing HDL levels, but any additional exercise is better than no exercise.
3. Lose body weight
If you are currently overweight, losing even a few pounds can improve your HDL cholesterol. For every pound and a half of weight you lose, HDL can increase by one milligram per deciliter. This means that you want to lose weight, and if you are excessively overweight, getting your HDL cholesterol levels in order is an additional reason to treat obesity.
4. Eat healthy fats
To improve your HDL and total cholesterol levels, you definitely need to avoid trans fats, which are commonly found in hard margarine, baked goods, and fried fast foods. Conversely, you need to consume more healthy fats, such as those found in avocados, olive oil, nuts, and salmon. Healthy fats help balance LDL cholesterol by lowering it and raising HDL cholesterol, which promotes a healthy heart. In fact, a high-fat ketogenic diet may reduce the risk of heart disease, including high cholesterol and triglycerides.
5. Cut out refined carbohydrates
A diet rich in refined carbohydrates like white bread, sugar, etc. has a negative impact on your HDL levels. By reducing the intake of these types of carbohydrates, you can thus improve your HDL levels. Choose healthy, high-quality carbohydrates such as those found in bread and fruit.
6. Keep alcohol consumption in moderation
Excessive consumption of alcohol has never helped the general condition of a person, especially his health. If you drink alcohol, always drink it in moderation. In fact, moderate alcohol consumption was associated with higher levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Moderate drinking for healthy adults is one drink of alcohol per day for women of all ages and men over 65 years of age, and up to two drinks per day for an average of 65 years or younger. Organic red wine is a smart choice, but don’t start drinking just to improve your HDL levels, as more of it does more harm than good, both for cholesterol levels and overall health.
7. Increase your niacin intake
Niacin is a B vitamin that your body uses to convert food into energy. It also contributes to the health of the digestive system, nervous system, skin, hair and eyes. Most people get enough niacin or vitamin B3 from their diet, but prescription niacin is often taken to treat low HDL levels. Niacin supplementation can increase HDL cholesterol levels by more than 30%. Niacin can be taken in lower doses than prescribed, but supplementation can lead to unwanted niacin side effects, especially when taken in high doses.
Some of the negative consequences of taking niacin include redness of the skin, a feeling of heat discomfort, and itching or tingling of the skin. Other side effects may include digestive, muscle and liver problems. When it comes to niacin, it is safest to research to add it to your daily diet. Foods rich in niacin include turkey, chicken breast, peanuts, mushrooms, liver, tuna, green peas, grass-fed beef, sunflower seeds, and avocados. Try eating more of these delicious niacin-rich foods to naturally raise your HDL levels!
8. Think about your prescriptions
Could one of your current prescriptions be causing your low HDL levels? Maybe ! Medications such as anabolic steroids, beta-blockers, benzodiazepines, and progestins can lower HDL levels. If you are taking any of these medications, talk to your doctor and see if there is anything you can do to replace your current prescription. As you now know with HDL, it is often possible to have a positive effect on your health without having to take the dodgy pill that may help one problem but cause another.
What is HDL cholesterol?
Total cholesterol is a measure of the total amount of cholesterol in the blood, which includes HDL, LDL, and triglycerides. However, total cholesterol is mostly made up of LDL or “bad” cholesterol. High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) can lead to plaque buildup in the arteries, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. LDL also increases the risk of developing a condition called peripheral arterial disease, which can occur when plaque buildup narrows the artery that supplies blood to the legs. The good news is that the higher your HDL, the lower your LDL cholesterol, or LDL cholesterol.
HDLs are actually more complex than previously thought. Instead of being one type of particle, HDL is now a family of different particles. All HDLs contain lipids (lipids), cholesterol, and proteins (called lipoproteins), but some HDLs are spherical while others are cake-shaped. Some types of HDL remove the bad cholesterol from the blood while other types are neutral cholesterol. Or even worse, some HDLs transport cholesterol the wrong way (to LDLs and cells) or protect LDLs in a way that makes them more harmful to the arteries.
The ideal level of HDL
The unexpected actions of HDL are one reason why lowering bad LDL cholesterol is often the primary defense against heart disease and stroke. However, the medical world, both conventional and holistic, agrees that raising low HDL is a very smart health measure because low HDL cholesterol can be more dangerous than high LDL cholesterol.
The ideal HDL level for both men and women is 60 milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood. If a man’s HDL level is less than 40 milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood or if a woman’s HDL level is less than 50 milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood, he is considered to be at increased risk of disease, especially from heart disease. Even if your HDL level is above a dangerous level (but below a desirable level), you should work to raise your HDL levels to reduce your risk of heart disease.
As you already know, HDL is the good guy in the cholesterol game, and it can help your liver get rid of unnecessary cholesterol from your body. This is a very important function that HDLs can perform, because cholesterol simply cannot dissolve in the blood. The liver processes cholesterol among its other important functions. HDL is a liver helper and a very good helper. A high level of HDL reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke, hence the importance of controlling blood cholesterol.
High-density lipoprotein cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol
To make things simple for you, High-density lipoprotein cholesterol is the “good” cholesterol, while the “bad” cholesterol is the “bad” cholesterol.
Here’s how the two compare:
- – High-density lipoprotein
- – “good” cholesterol
- Increases with a healthy diet
- Smoking lowers HDL levels
- Helps reduce low-density lipoprotein levels and remove cholesterol from the arteries.
- A higher level means a lower risk of serious heart disease and stroke.
- Low-density lipoprotein
- – “bad” cholesterol
- Levels increase with an unhealthy diet
- Smoking increases LDL levels
- It is the main source of cholesterol buildup and blockage of the arteries
- Higher levels mean an increased risk of heart disease and stroke
- Weight gain is associated with higher LDL levels and lower HDL levels.
If you don’t know your HDL level yet, you can find out with a blood test that includes a lipid profile. This profile tells you your total total cholesterol level as well as its various components, including HDL and LDL. There are no obvious signs or symptoms of high low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. That is why it is very important to maintain a healthy lifestyle and get your cholesterol checked regularly!
Remember, the best ways to raise HDL cholesterol levels while lowering levels of LDL cholesterol are to not smoke, exercise more, reduce body weight, eat healthy fats, reduce intake of refined carbohydrates, moderate alcohol intake, increase niacin intake, and monitor prescribed medication intake. If you do all this, you will see your HDL levels rise and your risk of heart disease and stroke decrease.
* Presse Santé strives to impart medical knowledge in a language accessible to all. In no way can the information provided replace medical advice.
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