It is true, every time I have my follow up with my cardiologist to go over my blood test results I am always amazed at the amount of numbers and figures that we review. It can get really confusing, and I really empathize with people who have just been diagnosed with high cholesterol. It does take a bit of time, research, and education to understand what the important factors are in controlling your cholesterol figures.
Over time, I did learn that HDL (the good cholesterol) and LDL (the bad one) levels are key to understanding how well or bad off you are when it comes to your cholesterol. Experts of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) note that although LDL cholesterol gets most of the attention, there's growing evidence that HDL plays an important role - because increasing HDL helps lower your risk of heart disease.
And why is that? Well, first of all HDL normally makes up 20%-30% of your total blood cholesterol (a significant amount, so obviously the higher level of HDL the better), second the NCEP says that high HDL levels appear to protect against the formation of plaques (fatty deposits) in the artery walls (a process called atherogenesis), according to studies in animals, and lastly research suggests that a five-point drop in HDL cholesterol is linked to a 25% increase in heart disease risk (not the kind of math I would want to see).
So now that we know how important high HDL numbers are for our heart, what can we do to increase its levels? As I have written in some of my earlier blogs, lifestyle changes play a major role in boosting your good cholesterol levels. Obviously, good common sense tells us that if you smoke, quit today, it's not just bad for your lungs and respiratory system, but also terrible for your heart. Also, controlling your weight through diet and exercise will boost your HDL numbers. According to NCEP being overweight or obese contributes to low HDL cholesterol levels, and is listed as one of the causes of low HDL.
As far as diet is concerned, choosing to consume the right fats (such as nuts, avocados, olive oil, and many fish products - all monosaturated) may increase HDL levels, and drinking many types of juices (such as orange, pomegranate, and grape) have also proven to have heart healthy qualities. And you definitely want to pay particular attention to the amount of sugar that you consume as it was concluded in a recent study that a high amount of sugar in your diet has an inverse effect on HDL numbers. For more tips on how to increase good cholesterol levels also check out this article by Lisa Nelson.
One last thing....don't forget how important exercise is for a healthy heart. Only 30 minutes of aerobic exercise each day will help raise your HDL, according to many health care professionals. A daily brisk walk in the neighborhood or a hard session on the elliptical will not only help boost that good cholesterol but also keep those unwanted pounds off.
Published On: June 07, 2010