How to Increase HDL Cholesterol Levels and Protect Your Heart?

Why you need to increase the HDL number count?

HDL cholesterol needs to be at its optimal levels – the reason being that HDL is the “good cholesterol”. Why we call it good is because its normal levels protect the human body from the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, peripheral vascular disease and more.

If you have low HDL cholesterol levels in the blood (HDL-C), you need to increase them to normal values. Low HDL is associated with high triglycerides levels. That is bad because it puts you at a very high risk of some complications that can be fatal.

LDL is the “bad cholesterol”. Its high amount floating in the bloodstream causes the cholesterol plaques to get deposited on the inner walls of the arteries. Over time, these plaques grow in size and reduce the lumen of the small arteries and can subsequently block them.

Part of the plaque can get dislodged and form a thrombus. A floating thrombus in the blood, which is called an embolus, can block arteries and stop blood flow to an organ.

If it affects the coronary arteries of the heart, you can develop coronary artery disease. If it affects the brain arteries, you can get a stroke.

Optimal levels of HDL in the blood will prevent this from happening. HDL has the property of collecting the excess LDL particles from the blood and carry it to the liver. HDL even breaks up the atheromatous plaques and carries them to the liver for disposal.

The liver breaks down the LDL and secretes it with the bile to the intestines from where the LDL is excreted out of the body.

Before proceeding further, you need to know the normal and undesirable levels of the various types of cholesterols. Check them out.

Having established the importance of standard HDL levels, you should seriously take up the necessary measures to increase your HDL count.

Improving Your HDL numbers

You can do it with drugs or without drugs. Avoiding drugs is the preferred method because cholesterol medicines once started can be a life-long commitment. Besides, they have their side effects such as liver and muscle damage and some neurological problems.

Secondly, according to Mayo clinic, clinical trials for some drugs that were specifically designed to increase HDL levels showed no benefits because they didn’t reduce the risk of heart attacks.

You, therefore, should strive to improve the HDL cholesterol naturally without drugs.

The tips explained below will not only raise your HDL cholesterol but will also help to lower LDL and the triglycerides.

Avoid foods high in saturated fats 

Saturated fats are so called because they are saturated with hydrogen atoms. Foods containing saturated fats and trans fats are the foods that increase your LDL and triglycerides, the bad fats.

They contain a high amount of such fats and are all from animal sources. Plant foods do not contain these fats.

However, these foods also raise HDL cholesterol, but because of the LDL and triglyceride increase, they fall in the bad food list.

Here is the list of some common examples of such worst foods that you should avoid.

However, this post on the worst foods for cholesterol will give you a more detailed reading.

  • Butter
  • Ghee
  • Hard margarines
  • Lard, dripping and goose fat
  • Fatty meat and meat products such as sausages
  • Full fat cheese, milk, cream and yogurt
  • Coconut and palm oils and coconut cream

Strictly avoid trans fat 

Examples include hard margarine, snack crackers, cookies, chips, and shortenings.

Fast foods to avoid

Avoid fast foods like hamburgers, fried chicken, fries, and tacos.

Diet to increase HDL

The dietary foods listed here help increase your HDL levels and not only lower your LDL and triglycerides, but also your risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes and more.

Low LDL cholesterol foods are mostly of plant origins such as whole grains and cereals, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. They do not contain cholesterol. Animal origin foods do. Therefore, a vegan diet will do a whole lot of good for your HDL numbers.

According The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vegetarians have a lower mortality rate from ischemic heart disease than the omnivores

However, some seafood such as salmon, tuna, and sardines contains heart and brain healthy omega-3 fats.

This post on low cholesterol foods will give you more in-depth information. Check it out.

Change your lifestyle habits to get rid of the excess bad cholesterol

A proper diet, exercise, cholesterol lowering supplements and a healthy lifestyle alone can help you lower your LDL levels by up to 20% to 40%.

It takes about three to six months to see these changes but in women, it usually takes a bit longer. About 70 percent of individuals with problematic cholesterol levels will respond positively.

That’s how result oriented these measures are. Broadly, following are the recommendations:

1. Lose excess weight.

2. Eat heart healthy friendly foods.

3. Aerobic exercises daily for 30 to 60 minutes. This type of physical activity is good for your heart and can give a good boost to your effort to increasing your HDL levels.

4. Do not smoke.

5. Do not drink or drink in moderation.

Again, check out this post which explains in-depth what are the lifestyle measures to adopt and habits to give up that will help you with your cholesterol problem.  

Eat natural foods that lower the bad cholesterol

There are certain natural foods with cholesterol lowering properties. When we talk of cholesterol, we mean LDL cholesterol.

There are so many foods advocated on the web that lower your cholesterol naturally. But, I have narrowed down and made a list of eight of them that work best and do the job quickly.

They include foods like garlic, red onions, coriander seeds and more.

Here is the compilation of such cholesterol reducing foods.

All the measures described above, if followed religiously, will help increase your HDL cholesterol blood levels, neutralize the bad effects of LDL, lower your triglycerides, and subsequently protect you from heart disease, stroke, peripheral vascular disease and more.

 

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