What is Good Cholesterol and How Do I Improve It?

by Laurel on March 5, 2010

Are you or any of your loved ones worried about your cholesterol levels? Are you taking cholesterol medication? It’s a hot topic in the U.S. because the incidence of heart disease is at an epidemic level. Cholesterol is not the sole reason people have heart disease, but it’s definitely a contributing factor. Experts agree that dietary cholesterol raises blood cholesterol and that high blood cholesterol levels increase your risk for heart disease. So, what can you do to help reduce your risk of high cholesterol and heart disease? For starters, you can increase your levels of “good” cholesterol. (I’ll discuss “bad” cholesterol and how to reduce your intake in a follow-up post next week).

High-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol works to “remove excessive cholesterol from your blood and tissues.” (Dr. Dean Ornish) You can increase your blood levels of HDL cholesterol by eating a healthy whole foods diet and getting regular exercise. In addition, everyone’s body is unique. You may have higher or lower blood levels of “good” or “bad” cholesterol because of your age, genetics, family history, lifestyle, etc. Just remember that you want a higher blood level of HDL “good” cholesterol and a lower level of LDL “bad” cholesterol.

If you’re looking to increase your levels of “good” cholesterol, there are two types of foods you can eat more of: monounsaturated fats and soluble fiber. Some wonderful sources are whole grains (such as brown rice, oats, and quinoa), blueberries, almonds, walnuts, avocado, olives and olive oil, flaxseed, apples, fish, broccoli, and 100% pomegranate, cranberry, or concord grape juices. You can also enjoy red wine, in moderation.

According to the experts I’ve listened to or read, most are recommending that your level of HDL “good” cholesterol should be over 60 mg/dl. Your total cholesterol levels should be under 200. But, make sure to consider your own risk factors (such as Diabetes) and discuss with your doctor to determine the best healthy levels for you. (Sources: Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr. Mehmet Oz). Ask your doctor to have your blood cholesterol checked every year.

Stay tuned for my next post, “What is Bad Cholesterol and How Do I Improve it?” See also: LOHF’s 14 Foods that Lower Cholesterol.

Update: This post was featured on FitBuff.Com’s Total Mind and Body Fitness Blog Carnival No. 144 and the Baby Boomers Blog Carnival, Edition 30.

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