What Causes High Cholesterol
Many factors can increase your chances of having heart problems or a stroke if you have high cholesterol.
- an unhealthy diet in particular, eating high levels of saturated fat
- smoking a chemical called acrolin, found in cigarettes, stops HDL transporting cholesterol from fatty deposits to the liver, leading to narrowing of the arteries
- having diabetes or high blood pressure
- having a family history of stroke or heart disease
There’s also an inherited condition called familial hypercholesterolaemia. This can cause high cholesterol even in someone who eats healthily.
Read more about the causes of high cholesterol
Cut Back On Sugar For Higher Hdl Cholesterol Levels
According to a study published in November 2015 in the journal Nature, a diet high in carbohydrates like added sugar, white bread, cookies, and cakes reduces HDL cholesterol levels, increasing the risk for metabolic disorders. Refined carbohydrates found in foods labeled low-fat make these just as bad as full-fat foods because the fat is often replaced with carbohydrates from added sugar and other starches.
A study of 2,500 people with diabetes, published in October 2016 in the journal Nutrition Metabolism Cardiovascular Disease, found that following nutritional recommendations to limit added sugar in the diet was linked to significantly higher HDL cholesterol levels.
When trying to reduce added sugar in your diet, Ahmed says its best to slowly replace sugars with fruits and vegetables. He adds, Also try to avoid trans fats, including fried foods or those prepared with shortening, since these may also reduce HDL.
Tips How To Increase Good Cholesterol Levels Naturally
HDL or high density lipoprotein has long been thought to have a positive effect on cardiovascular health. HDL, commonly known as good cholesterol, functions as a shuttle that carries cholesterol from the blood to the liver. Therefore, the way to increase good cholesterol is always a concern of many people.
If you are still struggling to do this, this article is for you. In this article, we present you useful tips to help you increase good cholesterol. The application of natural tips always receives the priority of everyone. But first, to determine exactly what your condition is, let’s look at some basic information about good cholesterol.
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How High Is Too High
Most health professionals are taught that the higher the HDL cholesterol, the more protective it is for your heart health. However, some specialist doctors are beginning to question this.
Very high levels of HDL have been reported to speed up the process of atherosclerosis, where the arteries become clogged up with fat, suggesting that at very high levels HDL doesnt do its normal job of clearing fat from the arteries.
Current recommendations for healthy levels of HDL cholesterol
- 1.2mmol/L or above in women
- 1.1mmol/L or above in men
Our HEART UK experts say the protective effect of HDL cholesterol appears to reach its maximum at roughly 1.4mmol/L, and higher levels may not provide extra protection.
Over 2.3mmol/L, HDL may behave more like LDL cholesterol and raise the risk of disease, according to current research. This is especially important for women leading up to after the menopause.
How To Increase Hdl Cholesterol
Considering the work HDL does in your body, mopping up excess LDL cholesterol so that it cant clog your arteries, its important to maintain adequate levels.
When HDL is too lowbelow 45 mg/dl in women and 40 mg/dl in menyour risk of atherosclerosis, heart attack, and stroke increases.
But there are steps you can take to elevate your levels of HDL cholesterol. Our medical experts outline seven steps to a healthy heart.
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Hdl Cholesterol Vs Ldl Cholesterol
As we know, HDL cholesterol is the good cholesterol while LDL is the bad type. Heres how the two stack up:
- levels increase with a healthy diet
- smoking lowers HDL levels
- is the main source of cholesterol buildup and blockage in the arteries
- higher levels mean an increases risk for serious heart problems and stroke
- being overweight is associated with a higher LDL level and a lower HDL level.
Which Is The Good Cholesterol
Cholesterol can be a silent killer. While the substance is flowing through your blood and clogging your arteries, there are few signs of a problem. That is, until a heart attack or stroke occurs.
Cholesterol is one of the most important risk factors for cardiovascular disease, says Indu Poornima, MD, a cardiologist with Allegheny Health Network in Pittsburgh. Unless checked by a blood test, it will never be detected.
Left untreated, abnormal cholesterol levels can lead to atherosclerosis , which can slow or block blood flow to the heart.
Thats the bad news. But theres an upside too.
Not all cholesterol is created equal, and one type can actually improve your health and lower your risk of heart problems. Thats right: as important as it is to prevent your LDL cholesterol from soaring, its just as crucial to make sure your protective HDL cholesterol is high enough.
Heres what you need to know about this good cholesterol, target numbers to aim for, and what to do if your number is too low.
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Why Exercise Is Effective At Lowering Cholesterol
Cholesterol is one of the fatty substances we have circulating in our blood. If we have too much, it can stick to the inside walls of our arteries, narrowing them and increasing risk of cardiovascular disease.
Its not only the amount of cholesterol in the blood that affects our risk, though. Other factors play a part. One of these is the type of protein that carries the cholesterol through the body. Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol is more likely to cause problems. High-density lipoprotein cholesterol protects the body from cholesterol buildup.
Exercise helps increase levels of HDL good cholesterol. Researchers reported on this in Lipids in Health and Disease. Physically active women had significantly higher levels of HDL cholesterol than sedentary women. Another study published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology found similar results. In men with belly fat, regular endurance exercise increased HDL good cholesterol levels.
Exercise may even change the nature of our cholesterol. In 2002, researchers from Duke University Medical Center found that exercise improved the number and size of the particles carrying cholesterol through the body. Those who exercised more had larger, fluffier particles that were less likely to clog arteries.
How Do I Know What My Hdl Level Is
A blood test can measure your cholesterol levels, including HDL. When and how often you should get this test depends on your age, risk factors, and family history. The general recommendations are:
For people who are age 19 or younger:
- The first test should be between ages 9 to 11
- Children should have the test again every 5 years
- Some children may have this test starting at age 2 if there is a family history of high blood cholesterol, heart attack, or stroke
For people who are age 20 or older:
- Younger adults should have the test every 5 years
- Men ages 45 to 65 and women ages 55 to 65 should have it every 1 to 2 years
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Ways To Raise Your Hdl Cholesterol
Some diet and lifestyle changes help boost HDL cholesterol levels:
Go For A Nice Run Or Jog
If your joints are in good shape and you enjoy jogging, youre in luck, as this is a great exercise for lowering cholesterol and for managing your weight. Dont think you have to race, though. An easy jog for a few miles may be better for lowering cholesterol than a fast sprint around the block.
In a 2013 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers reported that long-distance runners showed significantly better improvements in HDL cholesterol levels than short-distance runners . They also saw better improvements in their blood pressure.
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The Benefits Of Dark Chocolate
You might be thinking, “Finally, a health list where it’s okay to eat chocolate.” However, there are a couple of important points to keep in mind. First, just because dark chocolate might help increase your HDL levels doesn’t mean you should gorge on it . Moderation is the key to incorporating the right amount of this chocolate into your diet. Unfortunately, you can’t swap out dark chocolate for milk chocolate .
The reason why dark chocolate can be effective at raising your HDL levels is because it contains more of the antioxidant, polyphenol, than milk chocolate . In fact, one study in the journal Diabetic Medicine found that participants who ate chocolate that contained large amounts cocoa and polyphenols saw a major jump in their HDL levels. However, the participants who consumed chocolate high in only cocoa didn’t see their HDL levels improve.
Although cocoa might not help raise your HDL, it does contain compounds called flavonoids, which can support your heart’s health . And if you guessed that dark chocolate has a higher cocoa and flavonoid content than milk chocolate, you’d be 100% right. But one important tip: Chocolate processing methods can drop the final product’s flavonoid levels, so do your homework when choosing the best dark chocolate brand for your health goals.
When Should My Cholesterol Levels Be Tested
Your GP may recommend that you have your blood cholesterol levels tested if you:
- have been diagnosed with coronary heart disease, stroke or mini stroke , or peripheral arterial disease
- have a family history of early cardiovascular disease
- have a close family member who has a cholesterol-related condition
- are overweight
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High Hdl Cholesterol Issues
Research published by the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology found that people with high levels of C-reactive proteins after having had a heart attack may process high HDL negatively. C-reactive proteins are produced by your liver in response to high levels of inflammation in your body. Instead of acting as a protective factor in heart health, high HDL levels in these people could instead increase the risk of heart disease.
While your levels may still be in the normal range, your body may process HDL differently if you have this type of inflammation. The study looked at blood drawn from 767 nondiabetic people who had recently had a heart attack. They used the data to predict outcomes for the study participants and found that those with high levels of HDL and C-reactive proteins were a particularly high-risk group for heart disease.
Ultimately, more research needs to be done to determine the risks of high HDL in this particular group of people.
Balancing Cholesterol With Medications
Statins are medications that physicians prescribe to manage cholesterol levels. Statins effectively inhibit the synthesis of cholesterol and decrease levels of LDL, though they have minimal impact on HDL cholesterol.
Medications that are aimed at specifically raising HDL cholesterol have been considered. Studies are being conducted on fibrates, which show promise in reducing cardiovascular events and increasing HDL cholesterol. However, overall, medications are aimed at managing LDL cholesterol levels.
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Protective Effects Of Spices And Herbs
Interestingly, many herbs and spices have a similar impact on cholesterol as fruits and vegetables. Herbs and spices also tend to be more accessible and stay fresh longer.
Try having these spices on hand to flavor your dishes.
- Garlic. A common flavor used in many different cuisines, garlic consumption seems to play a role in increasing HDL cholesterol while decreasing LDL.
- Coriander. This savory spice can be used in curry dishes, and research on rat models shows that coriander can help prevent plaque accumulation in the arteries.
- Turmeric. This vibrant yellow spice has anti-inflammatory properties and helps prevent atherosclerosis. Turmeric also plays a role in protecting liver health and reversing liver damage.
- Black pepper. This common seasoning helps increase cholesterol efflux and mitigate cardiovascular disease. Black pepper also helps increase your bodys absorption and utilization of turmeric, so using both spices in the same dish is beneficial.
Hdl: Is Higher Always Better
If HDL protects the heart, should it be as high as possible? The answer may depend on several factors.
Most people will find that their HDL cholesterol does not climb to levels that are considered too high. Though no upper limit has been established, HDL cholesterol does not naturally elevate to unhealthy high levels in people with normal cholesterol processing and metabolism.
In rare cases, however, HDL cholesterol can become too high.
An article in the journal Science discusses a rare genetic variant that may cause exceptionally high HDL levels. The genetic variant alters the way that HDL works in the body, and can increase the risk of heart disease.
The variant is found in a specific molecule known as SR-BI. The mutation in SR-BI causes increased levels of HDL and an increased risk of heart disease.
The people studied had levels of HDL greater than 95 milligrams per deciliter . These levels are abnormally high. The researchers found that some of the people in their study did have this rare genetic defect.
Another study found that people who recently had a heart attack and who have both high HDL and high levels of a substance called C-reactive protein were at higher risk of having another cardiac event. C-reactive protein is produced by the liver when inflammation occurs in the body.
Furthermore, cholesterol balance may be an important factor to consider, according to a review in Atherosclerosis.
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The Benefits Of Fish Oil Supplements
The human body is complicated. What will work for one person might not work for another. Case in point, fish oil supplements have a very mixed track record when it comes to managing cholesterol.
First, the good news: There is data that suggests fish oil supplements can increase your HDL levels . It also might have an impact on LDL, rendering them less likely to cause plaque buildup in your arteries. However, there is also some bad news: While fish oil may help keep the LDL in your system from causing health problems, it also might not lower your LDL levels . In short, even though fish oil can help increase your HDL levels, the findings regarding fish oil supplements and cholesterol are inconsistent.
Because of the potential positive and negative impacts of fish oil on the LDL in your body, speak with your healthcare provider before taking any fish oil supplements. If you do decide to give fish oil a try, pharmacist and herbalist Dr. Simon Yeung recommends purchasing supplements that have been tested for quality and purity by either ConsumerLab.com or the U.S. Pharmacopoeial Convention Dietary Supplement Verification Program .
What Can You Do To Keep Hdl High
Although medications can increase HDL cholesterol, research has shown that they do not necessarily alter your risk of heart disease, says Dr. Wassif. So we focus on LDL cholesterol reduction and recommend lifestyle changes. The American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association recommend:
A healthy, well-balanced diet. Eat a Mediterranean-style diet rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and lean vegetable or animal protein and fish.
Regular exercise, such as walking. Get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity activity.
Maintain a healthy weight, or lose excess pounds if needed. Besides improving your diet and exercise habits, a comprehensive plan may include lifestyle counseling for stress, sleep hygiene and other individual challenges you face.
Dont smoke. If you smoke, individual or social support groups are recommended while trying to quit to increase your chances of success.
Manage your blood sugar. If you have type 2 diabetes, a healthy diet and exercise are crucial, along with any medications your doctor may recommend.
Aim for a blood pressure of < 130/80 mm Hg. Get the proper amount of good-quality sleep, follow a low-sodium diet and meet the recommended exercise guidelines.
Start by taking these small steps to change your lifestyle. Theyll help you boost your HDL, making it easier for your bloodstreams cleaner to do its job.
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The Bottom Line To Boost Hdl Cholesterol
HDL cholesterol is just one part of the heart healthy regimen. For a more complete heart healthy plan, follow these steps:
Making these lifelong changes can help boost good cholesterol, lower bad cholesterol, protect your heart and promote overall health!
Get A Cholesterol Test
A simple blood test can detect the milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood in your body.
The CDC recommends healthy adults have their cholesterol checked every four to six years. For those with health issues, such as obesity or diabetes, or a family history of high cholesterol, tests should be done more often.
And its never too early to get a baseline cholesterol screening for those at higher risk.
Children with a parental history of hypercholesterolemia should get tested very early on between, 2 to 10 years of age, advises Dr. Poornima.
For those with no risk factors, she recommends a baseline cholesterol screening between ages 17 to 20, as children transition from pediatric to adult care.
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