There’s been some evidence suggesting that increasing HDL (aka the good cholesterol) can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke — even without changes in LDL (aka the bad cholesterol). Harvard Women’s Health Watch suggests these five things people can do to raise their HDL levels:
- Get aerobic exercise. Moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise can boost HDL by 5 to 10 percent. Aim for five 30-minute sessions per week.
- Lose weight if you need to. If you’re overweight or obese, you can boost your HDL level by about 1 mg/dL for every 7 pounds lost, although any amount of weight loss will help.
- If you smoke, quit. HDL levels rise by as much as 15 to 20 percent after you quit.
- Eat a healthy diet. Avoid trans fats, which increase bad cholesterol and decrease good cholesterol. Avoid highly refined carbohydrates, such as white-flour products.
- Consider medications. Niacin, available over the counter, is the most effective HDL-raising medication available. Niacin can be strong medicine — work with your clinician if you want to try it.
What's more? These tips will also improve your overall health, not just HDL levels. How many of them do you do?