How can you boost hdl cholesterol?
Although having high cholesterol levels is generally considered bad, it depends on what type of cholesterol it is. The ratio of ldl cholesterol to hdl cholesterol is an important factor in maintaining a healthy heart.
Ideally, you want to increase your levels of hdl cholesterol while decreasing levels of ldl cholesterol.
The NHS recommends that hdl cholesterol levels for an adult should be 1 mmol/L (millimoles per litre) or more. Adopting healthy lifestyle choices will help you to maintain this level of hdl cholesterol. It is recommended that you:
- Quit smoking. Smoking encourages cholesterol to collect in your blood vessels, making it harder for the hdl to remove it.
- Exercise more. Thirty minutes of brisk aerobic exercise (anything that increases your heart rate) five times a week can boost your hdl cholesterol levels within a couple of months.
- Stay at a healthy weight. This can help to raise your hdl and lower your ldl cholesterol levels.
Incorporating these hdl-friendly foods into your diet will help to increase hdl levels:
- Increase unsaturated fats. These are found in many vegetable oils and nuts.
- Beans and legumes, such as chickpeas and lentils.
- Whole grains, such as oats, barley and quinoa.
- Fatty fish. Fish such as mackerel and salmon contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to improve the ratio of good to bad cholesterol. You may also consider taking fish oil supplements.
- Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil also contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Moderate alcohol consumption (one to two drinks per day) has been linked to increased hdl cholesterol levels.
- Avoid foods that contain saturated fats (from red meat, dairy, eggs) and trans fats (found in processed foods), as these increase your bad ldl cholesterol levels and can cause damage to your blood vessels.
Some medicines, such as fibrates and statins, which can be prescribed by your doctor to decrease ldl levels, may also help to boost your hdl levels. Your doctor may also prescribe niacin, also known as nicotinic acid (a B vitamin), as it can raise hdl cholesterol by 30%. However, it is associated with some serious side effects, so it isn’t suitable for everyone.