5 Ways to Increase Your Good Cholesterol and Protect Your Heart
Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in America. Researchers estimate that someone in America has a heart attack or stroke every 25 seconds.
What can you do to make sure that you don’t suffer the same fate? Fortunately, there are numerous simple things that you can do each day to bulletproof your heart. Today, we’re going to focus on ways that you can increase your HDL or good cholesterol.
What Is So Good About It?
Your HDL cholesterol plays a very important role in your heart health. It is responsible for removing toxic fat and cholesterol molecules from your blood vessel walls and returning them to your liver to be processed.
These toxic molecules are the root cause of the plaques in your blood vessels which lead to heart attacks. This is why HDL cholesterol is called the good cholesterol.
The more HDL cholesterol you have, the better your body can remove these molecules, and the healthier your blood vessels will be.
What Should Yours Be?
With HDL cholesterol, the higher it is, the better. Women have an advantage over men as they traditionally have higher HDL cholesterol due to the hormonal differences between sexes.
Women should aim to have an HDL cholesterol greater than 50 mg/dL, while men need an HDL cholesterol of at least 40 mg/dL. These are the recommended minimums and higher is better. If you aren’t sure what your HDL cholesterol is, check with your physician.
Now that you know why your HDL cholesterol is important and what your numbers should be – here are 5 ways that you can increase your ‘good’ cholesterol.
Eat Fatty Fish Regularly or Take a Fish Oil Supplement
The omega-3 fats (called EPA and DHA) found in fatty fish and fish oil supplements should be an integral part of your diet for so many reasons, but most people don’t know that these special fats can also increase your HDL cholesterol.
In order to reap these benefits, you should be sure to eat at least 2-3 servings of fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, etc) each week. If you don’t like fish, just take a daily fish oil supplement.
Have a Drink
The media has done a very good job of muddling the beneficial effects of alcohol on your heart health by confusing people as to what kind of alcoholic drink they should have.
Fortunately, research shows that it doesn’t matter if you are drinking red wine or whiskey. All kinds of alcohol will increase your good cholesterol. This effect maxes out at 5 drinks per week, so don’t overdue it, and keep in mind that a drink is defined as 12 oz of beer, 4 oz of wine, or 1.5 oz of spirits.
The Naked Nutrition Bites newsletters are dedicated to nutrition, but in this case, it is important to veer from this core message to mention exercise. Regular exercise is not just a key component in keeping your waistline in check, it also helps maintain optimal HDL cholesterol levels.
Don’t Just Lose It. Keep It Off.
Yo-Yo dieting is one of the worst things that you can do for your HDL cholesterol. When you lose weight, your HDL cholesterol will actually go down. But losing weight, and then keeping the weight off, will cause your HDL cholesterol to rise to levels higher than before you started your weight loss journey.
Eat Enough Fat
Dietary fat is a powerful modulator of your HDL cholesterol. Low fat diets will ruin your HDL levels. Aim to eat a diet that is 30% of calories from fat. This will support healthy HDL cholesterol levels while optimizing other risk factors of heart disease.