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Lifestyle Modifications and Dietary Changes to Increase HDL Levels

Cholesterol & Its Types

There are two types of cholesterol that are produced in the body.(1) These are the LDL or low density lipoprotein and HDL or high density lipoprotein.(1) While high levels of LDL cholesterol has adverse effects on heart health of an individual and increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, the HDL cholesterol works exactly the opposite and improves heart health.(1) The function of the HDL cholesterol is to remove excess of LDL cholesterol and thus protect the heart and prevent any clogging of arteries. A clogged artery can lead to serious medical conditions like myocardial infarction and stroke.

Cholesterol & Its Types

The Significance of Different Cholesterol Levels

An increased level of LDL cholesterol signifies that it is not being removed effectively by HDL cholesterol. One of the reasons for this may be low levels of HDL Cholesterol. This puts the affected individual at risk for cardiovascular diseases. However, low HDL cholesterol is not the only reason for decreased heart health. There are other factors as well which also contribute to high HDL cholesterol levels and ultimately a fading heart health like a family history of cardiac illnesses, underlying medical conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, and lifestyle habits.

Having a low HDL cholesterol level should not be a cause of worry for an individual as there are many natural ways and lifestyle modifications through which the HDL levels can be boosted. This article gives an overview of some of the ways to increase HDL Cholesterol levels.

Lifestyle Modifications and Dietary Changes to Increase HDL Levels

HDL Cholesterol levels can be increased by following certain lifestyle modifications and dietary changes, which have been discussed in detail below.

Lifestyle Modifications to Increase HDL Levels

Diligent Exercise for Increasing HDL Levels(4): Being physically active is extremely important in not only staying fit, but also decreasing the HDL cholesterol levels. Brisk walking for at least 30 minutes every day is best, although swimming and cycling also can be useful. Strength training and aerobics also help in increasing the HDL cholesterol levels. However, doing high intensity exercises is the best way recommended by physicians to boost low HDL levels.

Nicotine Abstinence for Better HDL Levels(6): Smoking increases the risk of a cardiac illness exponentially.(7) A smoker in addition to cardiac ailments also is at risk for lung cancer.(8, 9) Nicotine present in cigarettes not only decreases HDL levels, but also increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Abstaining from nicotine in any form increases HDL levels according to a study, which compared HDL levels from former smokers or current smokers to non-smokers and found a great deal of difference between the levels. In some cases, even if there was not a significant rise in HDL cholesterol levels, there was definitely an improvement in the function of HDL Cholesterol and it decreased the overall risk of cardiovascular disease in the individual.

Lose Weight to Increase HDL Levels(10): Being overweight is one of the most common causes of low HDL levels. Thus, losing weight is the best way to boost up the HDL levels. Weight loss can be obtained by monitoring diet, doing plenty of high intensity exercises to burn more calories, and even in extreme cases weight loss surgery can be done if needed. Maintaining an ideal weight is the key to increasing HDL cholesterol levels.

Dietary Changes to Increase HDL Levels

Olive Oil for Better HDL Levels(2, 3): Olive oil is a perfect source for a healthy heart and increased HDL cholesterol levels. Olive oil is perhaps the best and only source for monounsaturated fats, which significantly decreases the risk of cardiovascular illnesses. Olive Oil also contains polyphenols, an extremely potent antioxidant, which acts as a catalyst in increasing the HDL levels. There are also certain variants of olive oils like processed olive oil and extra virgin olive oil in which the latter has more polyphenols than the former. However, both of these products are extremely effective in increasing HDL levels. Olive oil also improves the antiinflammatory effects of HDL cholesterol, which is extremely beneficial for people with hypercholesterolemia.

Coconut Oil for Increasing HDL Levels : (5) This is also an excellent way to increase HDL levels. Coconut oil increases the metabolic rate, improves brain function and reduces appetite. This is especially beneficial for overweight individuals. In fact, coconut oil increases the HDL cholesterol levels more than any other food product. Coconut oil also improves the overall ratio between LDL and HDL cholesterol, which again reduces the overall risk of an individual having a heart disease. Adding just two tablespoons of coconut oil in cooking food suffices for a substantial increase in the HDL cholesterol levels.

Fatty Fish for Better HDL Levels : (11) This is yet another way to increase HDL Cholesterol levels. Fatty fish contains plenty of omega-3 and fatty acids, which is not only beneficial for many disease conditions, but also improves heart health by boosting the HDL levels. Fatty fish is also a natural antiinflammatory and is beneficial to the overall health by reducing inflammation.(12) Studies show that people who eat fatty fish at least three times a week have higher levels of HDL cholesterol than people who do not consume fish. Some of the types of fishes that boost HDL cholesterol levels include: sardines, salmon and mackerel.

Avoiding Processed Foods: These types of foods contain Trans-Fats which are perhaps one of the most common causes of decreased HDL cholesterol levels and increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.(13) Processed foods are mixed with trans-fat to make them last longer. These processed foods are made by adding hydrogen to unsaturated oils. Apart from cutting down the HDL cholesterol levels, processed foods also increase inflammation and give rise to various health problems in the long run. Pizzas, fast foods, finger chips, potato chips, tinned meat all contain artificial trans-fats and should be completely avoided to ensure that HDL cholesterol levels stay within normal limits and the risk for a cardiovascular ailment is considerably less.

So, to summarize……

HDL cholesterol plays a vital role in preventing various diseases and keeping the heart healthy. If HDL levels are low, the likelihood of an individual developing cardiovascular disease increases significantly. However, there are many ways to improve the HDL levels like making certain lifestyle and dietary changes.

Diligent exercise and staying active is perhaps the best way to boost HDL cholesterol levels, although abstaining from nicotine, alcohol and processed foods all contribute in boosting HDL cholesterol levels. Also, monitoring weight and eating a balanced diet also contribute to increased HDL cholesterol levels.


Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 15, 2022

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