How can I raise the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) level in my body?

There are many ways to raise your HDL cholesterol without medication. Some tips include:
  • Performing aerobic exercise
  • Losing weight
  • Quitting smoking
  • Decreasing fat intake (particularly saturated fat)
  • Increasing fiber intake
  • Eating foods rich in unsaturated fats (fish, nuts, avocado)
  • Taking an omega-3 and/or omega-6 supplement

There are several medications available from your doctor that can slightly increase your HDL level. However, the best and most reliable way to increase your HDL is to do cardio exercise regularly. This increases your HDL more than any medication.

High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, cholesterol is often called “good” cholesterol because it helps keep cholesterol from building up inside blood vessels. Cholesterol is one of the components of plaque, the fatty substance that can over time block arteries and lead to a heart attack or stroke. An HDL cholesterol reading below 40 indicates an increased risk for heart attack, stroke or blockages in the arteries of the legs (peripheral artery disease).

Your physician can work with you to help you raise your HDL cholesterol levels. Your plan to raise HDL cholesterol levels will include a combination of lifestyle changes and medication:

  • Regular exercise - Work with your physician to determine the intensity and frequency of exercise that is best for you.
  • Diet - Choose oils that can protect your heart and blood vessels, including olive oil, canola oil, corn oil, sunflower oil or safflower oil. For additional protection for your heart, eat fish two or three times per week. Choose salmon, sardines, herring, albacore tuna, rainbow trout and other types that are high in beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Smoking - If you smoke, quit. Quitting smoking has been demonstrated to raise HDL levels. Additionally, you will be lowering your overall risks of heart disease and cancer.
  • Weight - If you are overweight, work with your physician to identify and achieve a new target weight. Weight loss raises HDL levels.
  • Medications - Niacin, fibrates and statins have all been demonstrated to raise HDL levels, particularly niacin. Work with your physician to determine if medication should be a part of your efforts to raise HDL levels.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.