Top 6 ways to increase your good cholesterol

I have been asked this question about how to reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase the good cholesterol (HDL) an umpteen times that I thought I must write on to guide those who struggle to achieve a good lipid profiling. Most often when one is diagnosed with high total cholesterol, the first effort is to reduce the total and LDL. One finds that is achieved through diet and medication, but the HDL needs a little more consistent coaxing to climb up to a desirable point.
Why this difference of LDL and HDL? Fat, since it is insoluble in water, attaches itself to protein part to get itself into cells and hence they are known as ‘lipoproteins’ (lipo meaning fat) LDL has lesser protein while HDL has more protein fraction.

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LDL is responsible for taking cholesterol towards the various organs and tissues of the body’s needs. Any excess cholesterol over and above the needs of the body keeps circulating in the blood until it attaches to the lining of the blood vessels and forms plaque, ultimately restricting flow and leading to a heart attack. Now, the job of HDL is to ferry excess cholesterol circulating in the blood away from blood vessels and towards liver for removal or recycling.

Studies show that a high HDL irrespective of a change in LDL levels itself may protect the heart from an attack. More than one specific thing, it is a group of behaviours that effect a good HDL level.

Smoking – quit smoking if you are a smoker. According to Harvard Women’s Health Watch guidelines, HDL rises by 15 to 20 % when one stops smoking. Therefore this is indeed a highly commendable behaviour for smokers to take note of!

Weight – how many ever times we advise about the goodness of losing weight especially for blood lipid control, it simply isn’t enough. Mayo Clinic says that for every 2.7 kilos that is lost, the HDL increases by 1 mg/dl

Exercise – one of the best ways to increase HDL is to exercise. When a sedentary person gets active with moderate to intense exercise done at least 3 times a week, he can expect a 5 to 10 % hike in HDL.

Refined carbs and fibre – increase your fibre intake and avoid refined carbohydrates. Think high fibre whenever you want to eat. This means you choose fruits or nuts when you want to snack, eat only high fibre foods like whole grains, bran flakes, corn, whole wheat bread and pasta, lots of vegetables. Increase fibre by adding wheat bran or ground flaxseeds or both to meals. Refined carbs to avoid would be products made of refined flours, sugared beverages, soft drinks, sweets.

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Trans fats and hydrogenated fats – avoid these found in commercial foods, baked foods, fast foods, fried foods.

Medications – Niacin – this is a very potent medication that effectively increases HDL. Niacin also reducing triglycerides and LDL. Fibrates also help reduce LDL, total cholesterol and increase HDL. But both fibrates and Niacin have serious side effects, so you may let your physician decide regarding taking this.

Parvathy R Krishnan

The author is a trained Nutrition & Dietetics expert with over 20 years’ of experience in hospitals like Vijaya Hospital in Chennai and the Armed Forces Hospital and New Mowasat Hospitals in Kuwait. She is presently a member of the Research Society for the Study of Diabetes in India. Parvathy blogs at http://premadiet.blogspot.in/

More by this author:

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How to eat rice and lose weight

Image: Thinkstockphotos.com

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