How to Raise Your "Healthy" Cholesterol
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How to Raise Your "Healthy" Cholesterol

Most of us focus on ridding our bodies of "bad" cholesterol, LDL (low-density lipoprotein). But increasing your HDL cholesterol -- the "good" kind -- is important for your health. Here's how to raise your levels.

When experts talk about improving cholesterol, most of the focus is on lowering LDL -- the "bad" type. But having a high HDL, or the "good" kind, is also important: An HDL reading lower than 50 milligrams per deciliter is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, and every point increase reduces your risk of dying from heart disease or a heart attack by 6 percent. That's why experts at Johns Hopkins University recently issued the following guidelines on how to up your HDL.

  • Exercise: Short, frequent workouts (e.g., five 30-minute sessions per week) can increase HDL by 3 to 9 points.
  • Stop Smoking: After you quit, your HDL goes up by an average of 4 points.
  • Achieve a Healthy Weight: If you're overweight, you'll boost HDL by 0.35 points with every 2.2 pounds you drop.
  • Have One Drink: A single alcoholic beverage per day -- wine, beer, or a tequila shot -- ups HDL by about 4 points. (No, four tequila shots aren't even better.)
  • Have Some Good Fat: People with diets rich in polyunsaturated fats from foods like olive and canola oil and nuts have higher HDL levels.
  • Cut Down on Refined Carbs: Regularly eating white bread, sugary cereals, and processed snacks lowers HDL levels.

Originally published in Fitness magazine, February 2006.