Raising HDL

Losing Weight

Being overweight or obese (see BMI Calculator) is often associated with high triglycerides and low HDL. Frequently, weight loss alone can significantly raise your levels of HDL. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight through diet and regular exercise is important in managing low HDL levels. Frequently, weight loss, combined with a program of regular exercise, increases HDL by 10 to 20 percent.


Exercise increases HDL and also decreases 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. The longer, harder, and more often a person exercises, the greater the increase in HDL. In general, exercise can raise HDL cholesterol by 10 to 20 percent.

Not Smoking

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


Moderate alcohol intake increases HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol), but does not lower LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol). Research studies have shown that HDL can be raised, on average, by 4.0 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) with moderate alcohol consumption.
(Click Alcohol and High Cholesterol for more information.)


For someone with low HDL, the first recommended treatment to raise HDL cholesterol is lifestyle changes. For many patients, increasing HDL to a "normal" level is achieved just through these changes.
However, if lifestyle changes aren't enough, some medications have been shown to increase HDL. These include:
10 Foods That Lower Cholesterol

HDL Cholesterol

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