Raising HDL cholesterol levels has proven to be beneficial in clinical studies that analyzed the effects of therapy designed to raise HDL and lower LDL levels, and many physicians believe HDL levels may be more critical than first thought. Researchers have found that a component of HDL cholesterol prevents fats from oxidizing–a process that allows the fat to grab on to cell walls where it can constrict blood vessels and cause blockages. This action contributes to cancer and heart disease. Boosting those levels is highly recommended, and the way to do that is by restricting intake of saturated fat and dietary cholesterol, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting regular exercise.
Since a low level of HDL is considered a risk factor, even if total cholesterol is within limits, a person’s risk of heart disease is elevated. Even in small amounts, increasing HDL cholesterol could reduce the risk of heart attacks. With that in mind, modifications in lifestyle are recommended for raising HDL cholesterol levels. Along with regular aerobic exercise (every other day), and weight loss for those over their optimum weight levels, diet is the most effective tool for changing those numbers.
Foods responsible for increasing HDL cholesterol, and the recommendations regarding them are as follows: (1) Eating half a raw onion a day raises the numbers an average of 25 percent in most people; (2) two servings of whole grains, oats and oat bran, brown rice, citrus fruit, apples, grapes, etc. and legumes and lentils; (3) use cooking oils higher in monounsaturated fats, such as canola or olive oil; (4) increase consumption of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, cold-pressed flaxseed oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, and dark green vegetables; (5) at least two servings of soy (tofu, tempeh, and texturized vegetable protein).
When a person is raising HDL cholesterol levels, doing something to lower the LDL or bad cholesterol is just as important, and that includes avoiding certain foods. One must avoid trans fatty acids, i.e., hydrogenated oil or vegetable shortening and choose a liquid or semisoft variety of margarine in a diet. Trans fatty acids are found in many fast foods and French fries, baked goods such as cookies, crackers and cakes. Remember, the softer the seed, the less trans fat it contains. Avoid refined carbohydrates like sugar and refined flour. Avoid egg yolk, liver, kidney, brains, etc., and avoid regular milk, cheese, and cream. Wine or beer in moderation may raise those good levels, but one or two drinks will suffice. Alcohol is not a medicine for increasing HDL cholesterol. While many times in Scripture wine is accepted, there is one place where it is not. “He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried.” (Numbers 6:3)
A brisk walk every other day, or jogging, or water aerobics will burn calories while helping those pesky numbers. Not to mention keeping the body in good working order for whatever other activities a person wants to take up in between exercising sessions. This side (exercising) of raising HDL cholesterol levels may be the most enjoyable part of all. Every aspect of keeping the body in shape, both inside and out, is important, as a person grows older. When it’s possible to avoid the complications of aging, that should be a priority, and warding off heart attacks and strokes is high on the list.
Books are available in all major bookstores or on line that have delicious recipes for every kind of meal that are designed to help with cholesterol management. Increasing HDL cholesterol can be an enjoyable experience. One of the goals of this type of diet will also be weight loss if a person is obese. Overweight people are most certainly raising the LDL level in their blood and lowering the HDL level, so losing that excess weight will work toward normalizing the numbers. Another factor is smoking. Smoking has an adverse affect on this problem, so if a person is smoking when the out of kilter numbers are discovered, he should stop.
There are those persons who, even after doing all the right things, still cannot get their levels to the right place. In that event, there are medicines to help. There are ads on TV every day for medications designed to do what the diet, exercise, and smoke cessation have not accomplished. In that event, the patient’s doctor will recommend a medical solution to raising HDL cholesterol levels. Blood tests, medical history, and the patient’s lifestyle will all be factors in the process of making a choice among the medications offered. The diet and exercise regimens should still be followed, but combined with medication, results should be positive.