Section: Ask EN
Q. Is there anything I can do to raise my "good" cholesterol?
A. Yes. A few lifestyle changes may help increase HDL's (high-density lipoproteins), so-called "good" cholesterol, though raising HDL's is not as easy as lowering LDL's (low-density lipoproteins, the "bad" cholesterol). Raising HDL's is important, because in contrast to LDL's, which deposit cholesterol on artery walls, HDL's clear artery-clogging cholesterol from the blood. HDL readings below 35 raise the risk for a heart attack or stroke. Readings above 60 are most protective.
How well HDL's respond to diet and lifestyle changes may depend on genetics. For some people, the only way to raise HDL's may be through medications like niacin and gemfibrozil or through hormone replacement therapy. Alcohol is often touted as a way to raise HDL's, but it increases triglycerides, so the American Heart Association does not endorse its use. And chromium picolinate may boost HDL's, but the findings are too preliminary to recommend supplements. Here's what EN suggests considering to help boost HDL's:
* Lose weight if overweight. Excess body fat causes the
body to break down HDL's faster than usual.
* Exercise. Researchers aren't sure how it directly affects
HDL's, but some of the effect may be due to fat loss.
* Stop smoking. As few as six cigarettes a day can lower HDL's.
* Ease up on carbohydrates. People of normal weight with high
triglycerides and low HDL's may be better off eating fewer
carbohydrates -- both sugars and starches -- and more
monounsaturated fats, as found in olive and canola oils,
avocados and nuts.
* Cut out trans fats by limiting foods made with hydrogenated
oils. Some research suggest this raises HDL's.
* Eat several servings a day of vitamin C-rich foods like citrus
fruits, kiwi, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower
and potatoes. Some research has linked high blood vitamin C
levels to high blood HDL levels.