When people hear the word "cholesterol" they are usually thinking of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or "bad" cholesterol. LDL cholesterol transports cholesterol throughout your body, depositing it along the walls of your arteries, which can lead to plaque buildup and increase your risk of developing heart disease.
There is, in fact, another type of cholesterol. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is considered to be "good" since it can help reduce plaque buildup on your artery walls. Therefore, it is not only important to try to keep your LDL cholesterol low, but it is also important to try to keep your HDL cholesterol high.
Here is a breakdown of HDL cholesterol levels according to the American Heart Association (AHA):
Lower than 40 mg/dL -
Having an HDL cholesterol level lower than 40 mg/dL is considered to be low and puts you at a higher risk of developing heart disease.
40 to 59 mg/dL -
The higher your HDL cholesterol level, the better.
60 mg/dL or higher -
Having an HDL cholesterol level of 60 mg/dL or higher is considered to put you at a lower risk of developing heart disease.
Tips for Boosting your HDL Cholesterol
Just as there are a number of lifestyle changes you can make to help lower your LDL cholesterol level, there are also changes you can make to help boost your HDL cholesterol level. Listed below are a few positive lifestyle changes that have been shown to have a positive impact on HDL cholesterol levels.
Reduce your saturated fat intake.
Saturated fat is found in fatty cuts of meat, whole-fat dairy foods, butter and eggs. It should account for less than 7% of your total daily calories. Consuming too much saturated fat can have a very negative impact on your heart health because it can increase your LDL cholesterol. Interestingly, saturated fat can also increase HDL cholesterol, but not enough to counterbalance the effect of LDL cholesterol. Foods with most of the fat as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are good choices because they tend to help increase HDL and lower LDL. Of course, the total amount of fat in your diet is important as well and should be kept below 35% of your total calories. Foods that are good sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats include fish, nuts (macadamias, pecans and walnuts), and certain vegetable oils (olive, peanut and canola).
Become more physically active.
Exercising regularly can help you lose weight, improve your cardiovascular health, and strengthen your muscles and bones. Strength training, particularly in overweight or obese people, has also been shown to increase HDL level, according to the American Heart Association.
Achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
Being overweight can negatively impact your HDL cholesterol levels. By losing even a few pounds, you can actually help increase your HDL level.
Smoking lowers your HDL cholesterol level and increases your blood’s chances of forming clots. There are medications, therapies, and support groups that can all help you quit smoking. Work with your family physician to develop a smoking cessation program that will help you kick the habit permanently.