Ways to Raise Your HDL (Good Cholesterol)

High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is one of the five major groups of lipoproteins that enable lipids like cholesterol and triglycerides to be transported within the water-based bloodstream. It is hypothesized that HDL can remove cholesterol from atheroma within arteries and transport it back to the liver for excretion or re-utilization, which is the main reason why HDL-bound cholesterol is sometimes called “good cholesterol” click for source. A high level of HDL seems to protect against cardiovascular diseases, and low HDL cholesterol levels (less than 40 mg/dL or about 1mmol/L) increase the risk for heart disease.

At risk Desirable
Men Less than 40 mg/dL* (1.0 mmol/L**) 60 mg/dL (1.6 mmol/L) or above
Women Less than 50 mg/dL (1.3 mmol/L) 60 mg/dL (1.6 mmol/L) or above

Let’s look at ways to raise our HDL (good cholesterol), shall we?

  • Exercise – just 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise on most days of the week can jump-start your HDL in the right direction
  • Reduction or elimination of foods that reduce HDL─Hydrogenated fats (“trans” fats) should be eliminated, since they reduce HDL (as well as increasing LDL and blood pressure, and have been associated with cancer)
  • Moderate amount of alcohol daily – alcoholic beverages raise HDL, red wine confers additional benefits, such as reduction in blood sugar and blood pressure, provided no more than 2 glasses per day are consumed
  • Dark Chocolate – preferably 70% cocoa or greater – do not exceed 40 grams, or approximately 2 inches square, per day
  • Green tea – brewed only, never instant or pre-mixed bottles. Many say several cups per day are required for its full effect
  • Quit smoking – quitting smoking can raise your HDL levels by about four points
  • Eat more fiber – soluble fiber found in fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains might boost your HDL
  • Maintaining a healthy weight – losing 10 pounds can increase your HDL by one and a half points. Aim for a weight loss goal to achieve a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or below
  • Dietary supplements – these include omega-3 fatty acids (fatty fish, fish oil supplements) and flaxseed oil or grain
  • Medications – some used to lower LDL cholesterol may also increase HDL cholesterol, including niacin, fibrates (Lopid, others) and statins (Lipitor, Zocor, others)

I’ve had low HDL (even less than 40) since I’ve had mine checked in the last few years. I’m really trying to raise it consistently to be over 50. I tackle both LDL (bad cholesterol) and HDL with exercise and a healthy diet of fruit, vegetables, moderate alcohol and green tea every day. Not a bad diet, right?

What is your HDL level? Do you have low HDL and need to raise it? Join the club and join in on the ways to increase it.