How to Increase Your Good Cholesterol and Decrease the Bad
By Troy Randle, DO, FACC, FACOI, Cardiologist—Virtua Cardiology
You hear a lot about lowering your cholesterol numbers. But did you know you want to keep your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol level high?
Your HDL, or “good,” cholesterol should be greater than 40 mg/dl in men and greater than 50 mg/dl in women. That’s because HDL carries low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad,” cholesterol to the liver, where it's removed from the body.
How to boost your HDL
Take these steps to improve your HDL, and lower your LDL:
- Aim for a healthy weight. Being overweight is a risk factor for heart disease.
- Get moving. Try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. This can include taking a brisk walk, riding a bike or playing a sport. Break down the 150 minutes into as many smaller sessions as needed.
- Clean up your diet. Foods high in trans fats lower your HDL as well as raise your LDL. Trans fats are found in many fried foods and baked goods. Limit these items and focus instead on eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Kick the habit. Smoking lowers HDL levels, especially in women, and increases your LDL and triglycerides.
If you’re unable to increase your HDL levels with positive lifestyle changes alone, your health care provider may prescribe medication.
Drugs that lower LDL and triglyceride levels may also raise your HDL. These include prescription niacin (Niaspan), fibrates like gemfibrozil (Lopid) and fenofibrate (Antara), and some statins, such as atorvastatin (Lipitor) and rosuvastatin (Crestor).
As medications may have side effects, be sure to discuss with your healthcare provider everything you take.
You have the power to increase your HDL level through choices you make every day. Make your heart a priority, and talk with your healthcare provider for help getting started.
Updated May 12, 2020