The human body has two types of cholesterol. One of them is LDL, commonly referred to as "bad cholesterol" which is dangerous because it travels through the bloodstream and gets attached to the artery walls, forming plaques. The other type is HDL, also known as "good cholesterol", which transports your bad cholesterol to the liver to eliminate it from your body. Needless to say, having high levels of good cholesterol is ideal for one’s health.
Your doctor can prescribe certain types of medication to boost your HDL levels. In fact, these medications act by diminishing the LDL and triglyceride levels in the body. Some of the most common medications prescribed in such scenarios are statins, fibrates, and niacin.
There are some drugs that are specifically designed to boost cholesterol levels. However, the clinical trials for these medications stopped because they showed no signs of decreasing the risk of a heart attack. On another note, some drugs can also decrease HDL levels in the body, such as anabolic steroids or drugs containing testosterone.
Exercising on a regular basis has proven very beneficial for a healthy heart. There were different studies which proved that HDL cholesterol rises when a person is physically active, particularly after aerobic exercise or strength training. However, the biggest improvements are noticeable in people who perform high-intensity exercises.
Several studies have been conducted on the topic, leading to results such as:
- Men who are overweight have experienced a 10 percent increase in their good cholesterol levels after having performed intense exercises over a 12 week period.
- During another study, women who have polycystic ovary syndrome were asked to perform high-intensity exercises three times per week, over a duration of 10 weeks. At the end of the study, these women had increased HDL levels, with about 8 mg/dL on average.
- While high-intensity exercise is, by far, the most fruitful way of boosting HDL levels, low-intensity exercise can help improve other good cholesterol qualities, such as the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capacities.
3. Weight loss
It is no secret that there's a direct link between cholesterol and obesity, which means that losing a few pounds can do a lot of good in terms of cholesterol levels. People who are overweight can boost their cholesterol levels by exercising, but also restricting their carb count, or carefully counting their daily calorie intake.
One study conducted among thousands of Asian participants who were obese and overweight revealed the fact that, by following a one-year lifestyle change program, they were able to lose about 6.6 pounds, with a 4 mg/dL increase in good cholesterol.
4. Olive oil
By boosting your good cholesterol levels, you will decrease the risk of suffering a heart attack. With this goal in mind, you should switch to foods that can fulfill that goal, and olive oil is one of the best examples. It is the only monounsaturated fat that, as studies have revealed, decreases the risk of a heart attack.
Extra virgin olive oil contains polyphenols, which are antioxidants linked to an increase in HDL levels. During a particular study, participants were given two tablespoons of olive oil each day, over a duration of three weeks. Those that were given oil rich in polyphenol has their HDL levels significantly increased.
A similar study was conducted among 62 adults, all of which were given four tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil that was rich in polyphenol. The study was conducted over a period of six weeks, were participants consumed olive oil every day. These people experienced an increase in good cholesterol levels of about 6.5 mg/dL, on average.
5. Coconut oil
Coconut oil is a product rich in saturated fat, which makes people naturally skeptical about its cholesterol-related benefits. However, studies have shown that coconut oil is actually good for the heart, as it can increase good cholesterol levels way more compared to other types of fat.
One particular study conducted among women who had excess belly fat has revealed the fact that coconut oil helps improve the LDL-to-HDL cholesterol ratio. The studies that have examined the effects of coconut oil in relation to the body’s cholesterol level showed that the best results are witness when you take about two tablespoons of coconut oil per day. Take note that you should avoid consuming coconut oil in its raw form, so it’s best if your incorporate it into foods.
Fish is, by far, the healthiest type of meat you can consume if you have cholesterol-related problems. Fish meat is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are extremely beneficial for heart health. They also improve the function of the cells that make up the artery lining.
However, studies have also shown that consuming omega-3 supplements doesn’t work that well in increasing HDL cholesterol levels, so the “real deal” is actually the most fool-proof way of boosting good cholesterol levels. Some of the best fatty fish that you can consume for optimal cholesterol levels are rainbow trout, mackerel, sardines, and salmon.
Boosting your HDL levels isn’t just about consuming foods or taking actions that will actually raise good cholesterol: it’s also about taking measures that will decrease the bad cholesterol levels in your body. The important thing to keep in mind is that good cholesterol works to eliminate the bad, so if you can’t raise good cholesterol levels, you can also opt for decreasing LDL levels.
The main takeaway is that one must look to decrease the LDL-to-HDL cholesterol ratio, so that the good can be efficient in getting rid of the bad.