Cholesterol is a wax-like sterol synthesized by the liver. It is basically required for the production of cell membrane, bile acids, and steroid hormones. Cholesterol is not soluble in blood, for which it is transported in the circulatory system by the lipoproteins. There are five types of lipoproteins, of which LDL or low density lipoprotein and HDL or high density lipoprotein are the most well-known lipoproteins.
LDL is usually known as the 'bad cholesterol', as a high level of circulating LDL cholesterol can cause narrowing of the arteries. LDL cholesterol can also collect in the arteries along with some other substances, to form plaques within the arterial wall. This is one of the most important risk factors for heart and cardiovascular diseases.
HDL cholesterol or 'good cholesterol', on the other hand, helps transport the excess cholesterol from the blood vessels to the liver. A low level of HDL is considered a risk factor for coronary artery disease, even when the levels of total and LDL cholesterol are in the normal range.
How to Raise the Level of HDL
The normal HDL level is 40 to 60 mg/dL. A level higher than 60 mg/dL is considered beneficial for the health of the heart and the cardiovascular system. On the other hand, if the level of HDL is lower than 40 mg/dL, it can raise the risk of developing heart and cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, it is important to increase the level of HDL, along with lowering the level of LDL. The following are some of the effective ways to do so.
Start Aerobic Exercises
Aerobic exercises are those that can increase your heart rate. Some of the most effective aerobic exercises that can help raise the level of HDL cholesterol are, brisk walking, jogging, cycling, and swimming. All these exercises can help increase your heart rate, and also lower the level of LDL cholesterol.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Obesity, as we know, is a growing health concern, as it can increase the risk of several serious diseases. An increase in the level of LDL cholesterol is one of the most common problems encountered by obese people. By losing weight and maintaining an ideal body weight, such individuals can lower the level of LDL cholesterol. This in turn, can reduce the risk of heart and coronary artery disease.
Follow a Healthy Diet
A healthy or balanced diet is another way to increase the level of HDL, and reduce the level of LDL cholesterol. A diet that contains fiber-rich foods and essential fatty acids can significantly increase the level of HDL. So, include more fiber-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables in your diet. Also increase the consumption of foods that include omega-3 essential fatty acids, such as fish and cold-pressed flaxseed oil. But be sure to avoid foods high in saturated and trans fats.
Use cooking oils that are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, such as olive and canola oil, and avoid partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. In addition to these, you can include certain HDL promoting foods in your diet. Some such foods are, raw onion, garlic, apples, orange juice, citrus fruits, soy products, oat bran, beans, orange juice, cranberry juice, berries, grapes, peanut butter, and psyllium.
Smokers can increase the level of HDL cholesterol, simply by quitting this habit. The level of HDL can increase dramatically once you discontinue cigarette smoking. Along with raising the level of HDL, this can lower the risk of several other health problems as well.
Limit the Consumption of Alcohol
Last but not the least, be sure to avoid the excess consumption of alcohol. Though moderate alcohol consumption (one or two drinks per day) may have a favorable impact on the level of HDL cholesterol, its excess consumption can cause several health problems. So, limit the consumption of alcohol, along with adopting other healthy lifestyle and dietary modifications to raise the level of HDL.
If you are trying to increase the level of HDL quickly, you can talk to your physician or health care provider regarding the use of medications. The medications that are used for increasing the level of HDL have not been found to be very effective, as compared to the medications that are used for lowering the level of LDL cholesterol. Nevertheless, some of the most commonly used medications for this purpose are, statins and niacin (nicotinic acid). A combination of niacin, gemfibrozil, and cholestyramine can also increase the level of HDL, but can cause some side effects. On the other hand, the aforementioned natural methods can raise the level of good cholesterol without producing any adverse effects.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.