8 Ways to Raise HDL Cholesterol

Most people have heard about high-density cholesterol (HDL), and low-density cholesterol (LDL), respectively. Did you know that there are many effective methods to increase HDL cholesterol and preserve your heart health?

HDL cholesterol is a form of excess cholesterol that your liver transports to your bloodstream so it doesn’t build up. LDL cholesterol is a cholesterol that moves through your body. This can make the walls of your arteries harden and narrow. If you have too little HDL cholesterol and too much LDL, you may be diagnosed with high cholesterol, a condition that can lead to atherosclerosis, angina (often experienced as chest pain), heart attack, and stroke.

Continue reading to learn more about ways to increase HDL cholesterol and see the supporting evidence.

You've heard it all before. Regular exercise is essential for heart health. It can increase HDL cholesterol. Running, swimming, cycling, running and light weight training are all great ways to boost your good cholesterol.

An American Journal of Physiology June 2020 Review found that endurance training leads to a substantial increase in HDL. Both men and women were included in the review. The reviews cited several studies where subjects did moderate-to-vigorous exercise at least 3 days per week. The same was true for all body types, from marathon runners to overweight beginners.

Haitham Ahmed MD, MPH is the chair of cardiology at AdvantageCare Physicians New York. "Exercise can independently increase your HDL, but it also leads to weight reduction, which could account for additional gains.

How to Lose Weight and Maintain Your HDL Cholesterol. Leah Groppo RD, CDE is a Stanford Health Care clinical diet itian in Stanford, California. She says losing 7 percent to your body weight can cause a metabolic shift. Groppo points out that "maintaining your weight loss" is crucial.

Abdominal obesity, which is fat found around the waist and not in your hips and legs, seems to be linked with increased risk of heart disease and lower levels positive cholesterol.

The best weight loss strategies include exercise, diet and surgery. One study that was published by Scielo.org in December 2018 found that participants with obesity who underwent sleeve gastric surgery saw a 12 month increase in HDL levels.

Smoking is a health risk that can result in a variety of problems including cancer and lung disease. Did you also know that smoking can lower or suppress good cholesterol?

Dr. Ahmed states that smoking can lower HDL cholesterol in a variety of ways. This includes inhibiting HDL synthesis, blocking HDL maturation and speeding up HDL clearance and metabolism. Smoking can reduce HDL cholesterol and help the HDL do their job again.

Research supports this conclusion. Biomarker research published an article in September 2013, stating that smokers had higher HDL cholesterol after quitting.

Discuss with your doctor the various methods that can be used to quit smoking.

Becoming a Pescatarian - a diet that consists primarily of fish, fruit and vegetables - can increase HDL cholesterol. Researchers published a July 2016 study that found that diets rich in fats such as fish had a higher level of HDL cholesterol than those containing lean protein and meat.

Ahmed states, "Omega-3 Fatty Acids, which is the type of fat acids found in fish," can improve your HDL cholesterol. Two servings per week of fish, such as salmon, mackerel or albacore tuna can help you reach your omega-3 goals. You also have omega-3s in flaxseeds, mixed greens and walnuts.

Enjoy a glass of wine - or not. Moderation may increase your good cholesterol. According to some research, at least. According to a recent review in Molecules published October 2019, red wine moderately, which is rich in the antioxidant compound Resveratrol, can have protective effects on your heart. But more research will be needed to fully understand how. To increase HDL cholesterol, you don’t necessarily need to consume a glass. You can also find antioxidants in grape juice, chocolate and peanuts.

If you decide to drink, remember to do so in moderation. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, women should have one or two drinks per day and men should consume no more than two.

According to Nature, a November 2015 Nature study, sugar intake can reduce HDL cholesterol and increase the likelihood of developing metabolic diseases. These foods are just as harmful as those containing full-fat carbohydrates, as the refined carbohydrates in them can be replaced by carbohydrates made from other starches.

In a study that included 2,500 diabetics, the Journal Nutrition Metabolism Cardiovascular Disease published an October 2016 article indicating that following nutritional guidelines to reduce sugar intake was associated with significantly higher levels of HDL cholesterol.

An observational study by the Journal of the American Heart Association in February 2020 that followed 6000 subjects over an average of 12.5 decades found that sweetened drinks like sodas, fruit juices, and other sugary beverages had an adverse impact on the concentration of lipoproteins.

Ahmed recommends slowly replacing sugars with vegetables and fruits to cut down on added sugar. Ahmed says, "Also, avoid trans fats such as fried food and those made with shortening. These may reduce HDL."

Use Healthy Oils to Cook Sunflower oil and olive oil contain a lot of unsaturated fats, which may lower LDL cholesterol while increasing HDL cholesterol. Researchers found that olive oil rich in polyphenols increased HDL cholesterol levels by nearly 50 percent in a February 2019 Frontiers in Nutrition study.

Coconut oil has been shown to be beneficial for raising HDL. However, it's not the most heart-healthy oil due to its high level of saturated fat. This can increase LDL cholesterol.

Walter C. Willett MD is the chair of the Harvard School of Public Health's nutrition department. He suggests that coconut oil be used sparingly due to the insufficient research into how it may affect heart disease.

Groppo agrees. She says that coconut oil should be applied to the skin.

Increase your intake of antioxidant-rich foods. A January 2016 study in Nutrients suggested that a high-fat diet may raise HDL cholesterol in comparison to triglycerides. This could be linked with lower stroke and heart disease rates. Avocado, dark chocolate and berries are some of the antioxidant-rich food options.

Groppo suggests that you eat antioxidant-rich food to raise HDL cholesterol. Your diet should include as many colors possible.

Discuss Supplements with Your Doctor - If you have tried all methods to increase your HDL cholesterol, but they are not working, dietary supplementation might be a good option. Ahmed advises against taking supplements that aim to raise HDL cholesterol. It has not been proved that supplements can reduce strokes and heart attacks.

Before you take any supplement to increase HDL cholesterol, consult your doctor. Some supplements can cause side effects or interact with medications.