You probably know all about the two types of cholesterol: HDL and LDL. Too much LDL (bad) cholesterol can gunk up your blood and clog your arteries, but HDL (good) cholesterol acts like a housekeeper for your blood, mopping up excess LDL and tossing it in the trash (your liver) for disposal. HDL also decreases inflammation and may protect against Alzheimer’s, too. How can you get more HDL? Start with these strategies.
- Take a Walk
A quick, 30-minute walk each day is all you need to increase HDL by 9%. Can’t squeeze in a daily walk? Shoot for 30 to 45 minutes of higher-intensity aerobic exercise two to three times a week. That more-condensed regimen will increase your HDL up to 5 points (not bad considering every 1-point jump in HDL drops your risk for cardiovascular disease by 3%).
- Lose Weight
Obesity and low HDL tend to go hand in hand, but you don’t have to become runway-model thin to raise your good cholesterol. You can bump it up one point for every 6.6 pounds of excess body weight you drop.
- Boost Your Vitamin B
Two B vitamins can help raise HDL: niacin (B3) and pantothenic acid (B5). Niacin works, but it can have side effects, including liver damage and intense hot flushing. A supplement containing 300 mg of B5 can also help increase your HDL cholesterol. To be safe, talk to your doctor before you take these supplements. Serious side effects, allergic reactions, and interactions with other drugs are possible.
- Opt for More Omega-3s
Cold-water fish such as salmon and trout are high in a particular type of omega-3 fatty acid called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) that helps raise HDL cholesterol. (DHA also protects brain and eye health, and helps with weight control.)
- Stop Smoking
Kick this habit to the curb and you’ll crank up your HDL by a whopping 4 points. You’ll also slash your risk of lung cancer and other life-threatening diseases. If you’ve struggled and failed to quit smoking, don’t give up. Sometimes it takes a new approach to succeed. Ask your doctor for advice on how to quit.
- Drink Alcohol in Moderation
A daily glass of red wine or other alcoholic beverage may help lower your risk for cardiovascular disease by up to 40%. That’s because the ethanol in all forms of alcohol helps increase HDL cholesterol and prevent blood clots. The key is moderation: no more than one drink per day for the ladies; two for the gents.
- Eat Less Sugar
Gobbling more than 90 grams of sugar a day can jack up bad-for-you triglycerides and take a bite out of your HDL level. Limit added sugars to less than 100 calories (about 2 tablespoons) a day. That includes obvious sources, such as a teaspoon of sugar in your morning coffee, as well as sugars in processed foods — everything from condiments and salad dressings to cereal. Yet another reason to carefully read food labels!