Increase HDL

Exercising to Increase HDL

Exercise is one of the best ways to raise HDL and lower triglycerides (and the risk of heart disease). Cholesterol research studies have shown that the longer, harder, and more frequently a person exercises, the greater the increase in HDL. In general, exercise has been shown to boost HDL cholesterol 10 to 20 percent.

Quitting Smoking to Increase HDL

Smoking cigarettes decreases HDL and is a powerful risk factor for heart disease. A recent study suggests that passive smoking (inhaling secondhand smoke) also decreases HDL. When a person stops smoking, HDL will rise and the risk for heart disease will decrease.

The Effect of Alcohol on HDL

Drinking alcoholic beverages in moderation may increase HDL cholesterol; however, it does not lower LDL cholesterol. Research studies have shown that HDL can be raised by an average of 4.0 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) with moderate alcohol consumption.
(For more information about the effect of alcohol on HDL, click Alcohol and High Cholesterol.)

Using Medications to Raise HDL

Lifestyle changes are often sufficient to raise HDL levels to a "normal" level. However, in some cases, a number of medications used to lower LDL can also increase HDL. Studies using statins have reported a modest 5 to 10 percent increase in HDL levels. Nicotinic acid has been shown to boost HDL levels by 15 to 35 percent. Fibrates have been shown to increase them by 10 to 15 percent.
The use of estrogen tends to raise HDL. This is one reason why it is thought that premenopausal women are protected from heart disease. In studies where women took estrogen, their HDL levels increased by up to 10 percent. However, estrogen is currently not a recommended treatment for improving HDL levels because of the increased risk for developing certain diseases and conditions (see Hormone Replacement Therapy for more information).
10 Foods That Lower Cholesterol


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