Did you know that you can improve your health by increasing your HDL? Raising your levels of "good cholesterol" can reduce the risk of heart disease. People trying to increase HDL often start by losing weight and engaging in regular, moderate exercise. Medications, such as statins, fibrates, and nicotinic acid, can also help improve levels of HDL.
High density lipoprotein (HDL) is also known as the "good cholesterol." It's "good" because it picks up the extra cholesterol that was dropped off by the low density lipoproteins (LDLs) and brings it to your liver. This way, your liver can repackage it to use it later or just get rid of it.
By removing cholesterol from the blood, HDL can help keep it from building up on the walls of the arteries and forming plaque. If your HDL cholesterol level is below 40 mg/dL, you are at substantially higher risk for heart disease. The higher your HDL cholesterol level, the better off you are. HDL levels above 60 mg/dL are considered protective against heart disease. The average HDL cholesterol level for men is about 45 mg/dL; for women, it is about 55 mg/dL.
In most cases, it's possible to raise HDL through lifestyle changes. Aspects of a person's lifestyle that may cause low HDL include obesity, smoking, and a lack of physical activity. Lifestyle changes that may help those trying to improve HDL levels include:
- Moderate exercise
- Losing weight
- Quitting smoking
- Moderate alcohol use.
Certain medications can also raise HDL, including:
Exercise can raise HDL while reducing triglycerides and the risk of heart disease. Cholesterol research studies have shown that how often a person exercises, for how long, and how hard all have an effect on HDL. In general, exercise has been shown to increase HDL cholesterol by 10 to 20 percent.