HDL cholesterol

HDL cholesterol, or "good" cholesterol, appears to scour the walls of your blood vessels so as to remove excess cholesterol. It then carries the excess cholesterol

-- which otherwise might have been used to make the "plaques" that cause coronary artery disease back to your liver for processing and eventual elimination.

Having HIGH levels of this form of cholesterol is good for your health. But everyone wants to ensure that they have at least NORMAL levels.

What are the health facts about 'good cholesterol'?

  1. What are normal levels of HDL? HDL levels between 40 and 60 mg/dL are considered "normal." HDL levels greater than 60 mg/dL may protect your from heart disease
  2. How can I raise my levels of 'good cholesterol'? Exercise: Exercises such as walking, biking, skating, snow shoeing, swimming - or any other exercise that gets your heart pumping so that you reach the Target heart rate for your age Just 30 minutes at least 5 days a week will produce real results. The Mayo clinic states that just two months of aerobic exercise "can increase your HDL cholesterol by about 5%.". This is an inexpensive way to improve your blood lipid profile AND it can also reduce your risk of diabetes. Those who already have blood sugar problems find that taking their walk after lunch or dinner offers the extra benefit of regulating glucose levels. Oh, and be sure to drink water during and after your aerobic exercise. 
  3. Diet, Nutrition Increase your intake of omega3 fatty acids Add walnuts or deep water fish and seafood. Now one of the problems with adding more fish to your diet is that of contamination - especially with mercury (a brain destroying element.) But if you understand the 'fish food chain' you CAN increase your Omega3 fatty acids without overexposure to contaminants. Sardine are low on the food chain - they do not eat other fish. And they are relatively inexpensive. Buy sardines canned in olive oil or water - try to avoid those packed with salt. 
  4. Red wine Although all alcoholic beverages raise HDL, red wine offers additional benefits. If you are a woman, one glass (6 oz) a day will be fine. Men can take 2 glasses a day. Note: Many restaurants now use wine glasses that hold 2 and even 3 regular glasses of wine at one time. Be careful. Over indulgence is not good for your health and can lead to excess alcoholic drink habits.
  5. Dark Chocolate - at least 70% cocoa. Researchers in Finland published a study in 2004 that compared the results of consuming 75g (2.6 ounces) of either white chocolate dark chocolate or dark chocolate enriched with cocoa polyphenols (high-polyphenol chocolate for 3 weeks. Those eating the dark chocolate increased their HDL cholesterol by 11.4%. Those who consumed the High polyphenol chocolate increased their HDL 13.7% but those using the white chocolate saw a decrease -2.9% in their levels. NOTE: The amount of chocolate was small - about 2 small squares. And if you are going the chocolate route, do avoid chocolate with high levels of sugar. There is a 90% dark chocolate bar available through Equal Exchangea fair trade organization. Whether you buy it online or from your local health food store the web site will show you what to look for. 
  6. Green tea If you drink several cups of fresh brewed green tea each day, you should see some increase in your HDL cholesterol. Cranberry juice has also shown to give an increase....but be careful. Canned and bottled juice often has a lot of sugar - which causes other problems. 
  7. Eat oats, fruits, vegetables, and legumes These contain soluble fiber which both reduces LDL cholesterol and an increases HDL cholesterol. 
  8. Use foods with plant sterols such as beta-sitosterol and sitostanol ( found in some margarine spreads - read labels)
  9. Stop eating foods with Trans fatty acids , the labels may say "partially hydrogenated vegetable oils" if they do not list grams of fats as a separate item. Instead add some flax seed [ buy small amounts and grind it fresh)
  10. Supplements for increasing HDL levels: Niacin or vitamin B-3 has been proven to raise HDL by as much as 15% to 35%. BUT you need to take large doses of niacin for it to be effective. This amount puts it in the category of drugs and should be administered by your doctor because of potentially harmful side effects of such high doses. Do not start this on your own.
  11. Policosinol There is a substance found in sugar cane called, Policosinol that has been shown to both increase HDL and lower LDL. As early as 2003, published articles at medscape stated that Policosinol increased HDL Cholesterol by 7.5%. Again, you can find Policosinol at Amazon click here to find this and other HDL Cholesterol products 

More information can be found at:

  1. Understanding Cholesterol
  2. Tips for lowering your LDL Cholesterol
  3. Senior Health Issues

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