Cholesterol: How You Can Boost The ‘Good’ Kind

The term cholesterol is regularly seen as a villain due to its association with cardiovascular issues such as heart disease and stroke. Thus we are regularly encouraged to keep our cholesterol levels low. However, this only refers to the bad kind as having adequate levels of good cholesterol can improve our heart health.

The good vs the bad

There are two main types of cholesterol: HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. HDL (high-density lipoproteins) is seen as the good kind because it prevents the build-up of this matter in the bloodstream. HDL protects the heart by transporting cholesterol from other parts of the body to the liver. The liver then ejects it from the body. This is why higher levels of HDL cholesterol are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. A blood test can reveal what your HDL level is. The recommended HDL levels should be over 40 mg/dL (milligrams per decilitre). LDL (low-density lipoproteins) is called the bad kind because it encourages the build-up of cholesterol in the arteries. This build-up can lead to blocked arteries, heart attacks or strokes. The recommended LDL levels should be less than 100 mg/dL.

Boosting your HDL cholesterol

Having high levels of HDL helps to reduce your cardiovascular disease and stroke, which is why it’s important to control your cholesterol levels. These can be affected by genetics,  although you can also influence those levels through your lifestyle choices.

Quit smoking

It’s been stated that smoking can lead to issues such as lung cancer. However, this habit can also increase your risk of heart disease as studies have revealed how smoking can lower HDL levels.

Exercise is key

Daily exercise can help to raise your HDL level, emphasizing the need for an active lifestyle. Exercise can also help you lose a few pounds which can improve your HDL. Obesity is often associated with high LDL levels and low HDL levels, thus weight loss can help in treating obesity.

Enjoy a healthier diet

In taking control of your levels, you definitely have to examine your diet choices. A diet high in refined carbohydrates, trans fats and saturated fats can negatively impact your HDL levels whilst increasing your LDL levels. These types of foods consist of white bread, sugar, some margarine, fried foods, and processed foods. Although some fats can increase your bad cholesterol, that doesn’t mean that you should omit all fats from your diet.

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There are ‘good fats’ that can be found in HDL-friendly foods. Good fats can be found in avocados, olive oil, nuts and salmon. Omega-3 fatty acids can also help to raise your HDL levels whilst lowering your LDL. Salmon, herring, mackerel and sea bass are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Other foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids include ground flaxseed, leafy green vegetables and walnuts. Lastly, be conscious of your alcohol consumption as moderate drinking has been linked with better levels of HDL cholesterol.

When it comes to protecting your heart, it’s important to understand both sides of the cholesterol spectrum. Keeping your LDL numbers low is just as important as ensuring the growth of your HDL numbers.

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