Cholesterol- HDL and LDL


Cholesterol is needed by our body to produce hormones and for cell membrane, and for other different functions. So our body produces sufficient amount of cholesterol itself, to perform its functions. The problem begins when we start to eat foods containing plenty of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. Usually, when you eat this food in a controlled amount, the body just produce less cholesterol and since it tries to make as much as it needs only, cholesterol level is controlled in your body automatically, but in cases when we don't eat too much saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. When we start to take in the excess amount of those foods then the body is overloaded with cholesterol and body mechanism fails to regulate its level.


So that is why those of us who are overweight already shouldn't eat saturated fat and cholesterol beyond the limit. But every cholesterol is not bad for our health.



Now let's talk about bad and good cholesterol. Cholesterol is not fully soluble in water. So how will it be transported through water-based blood? Lipid-protein is the medium through which cholesterol is carried. LDL and HDL are two mediums. LDL carries a higher concentration of cholesterol along with lipid. HDL carries lower concentration of cholesterol. Since LDL carries the high concentration of cholesterol, it drops some cholesterol at a different part of the artery, which you call as plaques. They are accumulated and narrow down the artery. But HDL can carry that cholesterol and send it to the liver and help to release from the body. That is why we need less LDL. Also, we should not mind if HDL is a bit high in our cholesterol. Since the LDL is the reason for blocking in an artery it is called bad cholesterol and HDL help to remove them, that's why HDL is called good cholesterol.


Understanding HDL Cholesterol and LDL Cholesterol


Liver in the body produces cholesterol, which is a waxy stuff. Some foods also contain cholesterol. Cholesterol has an important role in how body cells work and are in demand to make vitamin D, bile for digestion and some hormones. However, excessive cholesterol in the blood can enhance your risk of getting the heart and circulatory diseases.


HDL-Cholesterol and LDL-Cholesterol


Cholesterol stays attached to proteins known as lipoproteins. Lipoprotein is of two main forms. One is a low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and the other one is a high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Most of the cholesterol in the body is LDL cholesterol. Too much of LDL cholesterol is unhealthy and referred to as bad cholesterol. It can increase your chance of heart disease and stroke.


On the other hand, HDL cholesterol is protective and referred to as good cholesterol. HDL cholesterol absorbs cholesterol and takes it back to the liver. The liver then drives it out of the body. High level of good cholesterol can decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke.


Levels of these cholesterols can help explain the risk of heart disease. Because of excessive LDL cholesterol, the LDL cholesterol can accumulate on the wall of your blood vessels. This accumulation is known as ‘plaque’. Due to the build-up of plaque, vessels get narrowed down on the inside. This narrowing down of blood vessels obstructs blood flow from and to your heart and other organs. When blood flow gets blocked on its way to the heart, it can result in angina (chest pain) or a heart attack.


Everyone aged 20 or over 20 should have cholesterol levels checked every five years. Men aged 35 or older and women aged 45 or older should have the cholesterol level checked more frequently. The screening test involves a blood test known as lipid profile.


Screening tests yield results in the forms of numbers. These numbers alone are not enough to assess the risk of your heart problems or determine what you need to do to reduce the risk. These numbers need to be assessed in relation to your blood pressure, your age, your smoking status and your use of blood pressure medicine, in order to find out your 10-year risk for serious heart problems. Once the risk is calculated, your doctor and you can develop a strategy to reduce the risk.


When the result is 190 or more, it is considered the very high level of LDL-cholesterol. In such case, your doctor is highly likely to recommend healthy lifestyle choices and statin. Statin is a medication used in lowering LDL cholesterol levels. A statin can also increase your HDL level slightly. In some cases, you may need to take a statin even if your LDL cholesterol level is lower than 190. Depending on the status of your 10-year risk for heart disease, your doctor will determine how to lower your LDL level by means of diet, exercise, and medication.


When the result is 160-189, the LDL level is considered high. 130-159 is considered borderline high level for LDL. 100-129 is considered to be near optimal level for LDL. Less than 100 is considered an optimal level for LDL.


HDL cholesterol level is considered protective against heart disease when the result is 60 or higher. When the result is less than 40, the HDL level is considered inadequate and a major risk factor for heart disease.


What affects Cholesterol Levels?


Following are the things that affect cholesterol levels.



Your cholesterol level can rise due to saturated fat and cholesterol in the food you eat. Saturated fat is a bigger problem than cholesterol in the foods. In order to lower your blood cholesterol level, reduction in the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet is useful.



Overweight can be a risk factor for heart disease. Overweight can play a role in increasing your cholesterol level. Weight loss, on the other hand, can help lower your LDL level and raise your HDL level.


Physical Activity

Being physically inactive can be a risk factor for heart disease. Physical activities on regular basis can lower LDL level and raise HDL level. Physical activity can also facilitate weight loss.



To some extent, your genes influence how much cholesterol your body makes. Age and gender also matter in cholesterol levels.


Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes and Lowering Cholesterol

In order to lower your LDL cholesterol, therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLC) can be useful. Following are few aspects of TLC.


The TLC Diet

A low-cholesterol and low-saturated eating are encouraged in the TLC diet. It limits consumption of calories from fat to less than 7 percent. It also limits consumption of dietary cholesterol to less than 200 milligrams per day. The TLC diet recommends a variety of nutritious and tasty foods. Foods that are recommended include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nonfat or low-fat dairy products, poultry without skin, fish, a moderate amount of lean meat etc. The TLC diet suggests only as many calories as needed to maintain the desirable weight. In case reduction in saturated fat and cholesterol intake does not lower LDL level enough, soluble fiber intake can be increased.


Weight Management

In case you are overweight, losing weight can facilitate lowering LDL. This is particularly important for those with a number of risk factors like low HDL levels, high triglyceride levels and being overweight with a large waist exceeding 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men.


Physical Activity

Physical activities on regular basis are recommended for everyone.


Drug Treatment

Lifestyle changes are important alongside drug treatment in lowering LDL level. Lifestyle changes can help keep the dose of medicine as low as possible. There are cholesterol-lowering drugs. Statin is a drug that keeps the liver from making cholesterol. Bile acid sequestrant is another drug that decreases the amount of fat absorbed from food. There are supplements like niacin and omega-3 fatty acid. Niacin prevents the liver from removing HDL. Omega-3 fatty acids help enhance the HDL level. A healthcare professional can help choose the right type of drug for you.


What is non-HDL Cholesterol?


Non-HDL cholesterol (non-HDL-C) has commonly been in use to mark a blood lipid pattern that is linked to enhanced risk of heart disease. The number of high-density lipoproteins (HDL-C) and total cholesterol can help calculate non-HDL-C. Non-HDL-C has been highly useful as a measure of future risk.


The most common underlying cause of cardiovascular disease is atherosclerosis. It results from a complex interplay between natural elements of the arterial wall, immune system, white blood cells (macrophages) and lipoproteins. Lipoprotein is a kind of particles that carry cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood stream. Lipoproteins that are directly associated with atherosclerosis are referred to as atherogenic. Most of such lipoproteins transport cholesterol and other types of fats like triglycerides.


A typical lipid profile measures total cholesterol, HDL-C and triglycerides. Measures or numbers for total cholesterol, HDL-C and triglycerides get used to calculate low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), in accordance with the so-called Friedwald equation. Nonetheless, there are several limitations in calculation of LDL-C.


Limitations of LDL-C

LDL-C has become a primary target for therapy in cardiovascular prevention, for historic reasons. In order to lower LDL-C, doctors suggest drug therapy and diet in relation to the LDL-C number.


Actually, LDL-C is not the only lipoprotein associated with atherosclerotic heart disease. The other things that are atherogenic include the so-called remnant lipoproteins and triglyceride-rich very low-density lipoprotein. This necessitates a lipid parameter that better reveals the levels of cholesterol on all atherogenic particles. This is of particular importance in cases where triglyceride levels are high, which is a common case among people with metabolic syndrome and abdominal obesity.


Non-HDL Cholesterol and Why is it Important?

LDL and HDL particles seemingly play different roles in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. Measure of levels of cholesterol on these two particles indicate two different stories. Increased levels of HDL-C are linked with low risk of heart disease. On the other hand, high levels of LDL-C are linked with enhanced risk of heart disease. While the LDL particles contribute to atherosclerotic process, the HDL particles seem to remove cholesterol from arteries and atherosclerotic plaques. Given the type of role, the cholesterol that gets transported by HDL particles is known as good cholesterol. In addition, the cholesterol that gets transported by LDL particles is known as bad cholesterol. Even though the cholesterol gets two different names, they are actually no different from each other. What makes the difference is the lipoproteins that carry the cholesterol.


Calculating total cholesterol provides limited idea about risk as the measure include both LDL-C and HDL-C. However, if we deduct HDL-C from total cholesterol, we can have measure of the amount of cholesterol transported by all lipoproteins excluding HDL. This reveals the amount of cholesterol transported by lipoproteins that are atherogenic or bad ones rather than good ones or only HDL. This measure is known as non-HDL cholesterol.


LDL-C alone presents incomprehensive picture of bad lipoproteins. For instance, people with metabolic syndrome or diabetic lipid disorders and abdominal obesity can have increased triglycerides, low HDL-C and relatively normal amount of LDL-C. Even though these patients have normal amount of LDL-C, they still can produce highly atherogenic lipoproteins like IDL (intermediate density lipoprotein) and VLDL as well as small dense LDL particles.


A patient with high non-HDL-C and low LDL-C is the example of how a patient has elevated risk can remain undetected or unaddressed if we just look at LDL-C. Such patients may also have high LDL particle number (LDL-P) as well as high ApoB levels.


Non-HDL-C is better than other lipid parameters like LDL-C in terms of showing a better correlation with small dense LDL particles, as pointed out in recent evidence. Predominance of small dense LDL particles is linked with enhanced risk of coronary heart disease, as suggested by clinical studies.  


In both primary and secondary prevention studies, non-HDL-C has been proven to be a better marker of risk. Of all the cholesterol measures, non-HDL-C is the best risk predictor both for CAD events and strokes, as found out in an analysis of data collected from 68 studies.


Calculating non-HDL Cholesterol

The formula to calculate non-HDL-C is as follows:

Non-HDL cholesterol = total cholesterol – HDL cholesterol.

For instance, if your HDL cholesterol is 50 mg/dl and total cholesterol is 220 mg/dl, then non-HDL-C is 170 mg/dl.


Different levels of non-HDL Cholesterol

Level of non-HDL-C is considered to be very high when it’s above 220 mg/dl. The level is considered to be high when it’s 190-219 mg/dl. The level is considered to be borderline high when it’s 160-189 mg/dl. The level is considered to be near ideal when it’s 130-159 mg/dl. The level is considered to be ideal for people with risk of heart disease when it’s below 130 mg/dl. The level is considered to be ideal for people with very high risk of heart disease when it’s below 100 mg/dl.


Lowering non-HDL Cholesterol

Lowering non-HDL-C usually begins with lifestyle therapy, usually targeted at lowering triglycerides. Typically, reducing consumption of total calories, especially trans fat and saturated fat in combination with exercise is recommended. Reduction of consumption of sugar and carbohydrate is often very effective in lowering triglycerides and non-HDL-C, especially in patients with metabolic syndrome and abdominal obesity.


Foods that are filled with omega-3 fatty acids are also useful. Fatty acids like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and herring are rich in omega-3 fatty acid. Fish oil supplements can also be reasonable alternative.


Physical activity can help lower non-HDL-C and raise HDL-C. Quitting smoking can help lower levels of non-HDL-C and enhance levels of HDL-C. Both male and female smokers have higher levels of HDL-C than smokers, as found out in a study.


Lowering non-HDL-C can also be possible by means of medical therapy. The medical therapy may involve using a statin drug in order to lower LDL-C level, which would serve as a foundation for the second stage of treatment to bring down non-HDL-C within the target range. The other drugs that are usually used include omega-3 fatty acid, fibrates, preparations and niacin.


What do Cholesterol Numbers Mean?


Cholesterol is a fatty substance. Your body produces it. Certain foods can also contain it. Cholesterol is necessary in order for your body to function properly. Nonetheless too much of it can increase your risk of heart attack or stroke. Excess cholesterol that does not get used accumulates on blood vessel walls, resulting in blockages. Having high levels of cholesterol can double your risk of heart disease, in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Having healthy cholesterol levels is important to keep your heart healthy. It reduces your risk of heart disease or a stroke. Keeping healthy cholesterol level requires you to know cholesterol levels in terms of number. All adults aged 20 or older should have their cholesterol and other risk factors checked every four to six years. Test reports reveal cholesterol levels in terms of milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dl). Your doctor can predict lifetime or 10-year risk for a heart attack or stroke on the basis of your total cholesterol level, HDL cholesterol level, LDL cholesterol level, etc. Risk of heart disease has to be determined in relation to not just cholesterol levels but also other risk factors like smoking, family history, age, high blood pressure, etc.

A test will reveal the status of total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.


Total Cholesterol

Total cholesterol is not a type of cholesterol. Rather, it is a composite of different types of cholesterol. Total cholesterol of a person gets calculated by adding his or her LDL, HDL and 20 percent of triglyceride level.

Different levels and status for total cholesterol in cases of adults in terms of number (milligrams per deciliter) in accordance with the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute are as follows :

Total cholesterol number is considered good when it is less than 200. The number is considered borderline high when it is 200-239. The number is considered high when it is 240 or higher.

Total cholesterol number is useful, but the number alone no longer gets used to assess risk of overall heart health. Total cholesterol levels or numbers get considered in context with other risk factors and treatment gets prescribed accordingly.


HDL or Good Cholesterol

HDL cholesterol is also known as good cholesterol as its good for heart health. HDL cholesterol levels in women tend to be higher than the levels in men. Type 2 diabetes, genetic factors, smoking, excessive weight and being sedentary can all lower HDL cholesterol. Usually people with high level of blood triglycerides also have lower levels of HDL cholesterol.

Different levels and status for HDL cholesterol in cases of adults, in terms of number (milligrams per deciliter),  in accordance with the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute are as follows :

HDL cholesterol level is considered good when the number is 40 or higher. HDL cholesterol level is considered low when the number is less than 40.

Doctors used to use numerical ranges to assess effects of HDL cholesterol levels. Unlike before, doctors now assess risk in broader context. HDL levels get assessed in relation with other risk factors.


LDL or Bad Cholesterol

LDL cholesterol can have negative effects on heart health. It is also known as bad cholesterol. A diet that is rich in trans fat and saturated fat can enhance your LDL cholesterol.

Different levels and status for LDL cholesterol in cases of adults, in terms of number (milligrams per deciliter),  in accordance with the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute are as follows :

LDL cholesterol level is considered good when the number is less than 100. The level is considered borderline high when the number is 130-159. The level is considered high when the number is 160 or higher.

Doctors used to depend solely on specific ranges for LDL cholesterol to evaluate its effects on heart health. Today, these ranges alone are not in use anymore. Doctors now consider LDL levels in relation to other factors to assess cardiovascular risk. The American Heart Association guidelines suggested such more integrated approach in evaluation. When you have your cholesterol level checked, consult your doctor about your LDL cholesterol level and other factors that can potentially affect your overall cardiovascular risk.



Normal triglyceride levels can vary depending on sex and age. Usually people with high triglycerides level have a high level of total cholesterol, low level of HDL cholesterol and high LDL cholesterol level. In many cases, people with diabetes or heart disease have high triglyceride levels. Increase in triglyceride level can be caused by numerous factors like physical inactivity, obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking and a diet that is very high in carbohydrates. Lifestyle changes can help address these issues. In some cases, genetic disorders or underlying disease can also be responsible for high level of triglycerides too.

Different levels and status for triglycerides in cases of adults, in terms of number (milligrams per deciliter),  in accordance with the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute are as follows :

Triglyceride level is considered good when the number is less than 149. The level is considered borderline high when the number is 150-199. The level is considered low when the number is 200 or higher.


Cholesterol in Children

Children usually have lower risk of having high cholesterol as long as children have a healthy diet, are physically active, are not overweight and do not have a family history of high cholesterol. Experts recommend that children aged between 9 and 12 should have their cholesterol levels checked. Later, when they are aged between 17 and 21, cholesterol levels should be checked again. In cases where kids have diabetes or a family history of high cholesterol, should have their cholesterol levels checked when they are aged between 2 and 8 and between ages 12 and 16.


Cholesterol Levels for Children

Different levels of cholesterol and status for children in accordance with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are as follows:

  • Total cholesterol level is considered good when the number is 170 or less. The level is considered borderline high when the number is 170-199. The level is considered high when the number is 200 or higher.
  • HDL cholesterol level is considered good when the number is 45 or higher. The level is considered borderline high when the number is 40-45. The level is considered low when the number is less than 40.
  • LDL cholesterol level is considered good when the number is 110 or less. The level is considered borderline high when the number is 110-129. The level is considered high when the number is greater than 130.
  • Triglycerides level is considered good when the number is less than 75 in children aged 0-9. The level is considered good when the number is less than 90 in children aged 10-19. The level is considered borderline high when the number is 75-99 in children aged 0-9. The level is considered borderline high when the number is 90-129 in children aged 10-19. The level is considered high when the number is 100 or more in children aged 0-9. The level is considered high when the number is 130 or more in children aged 10-19.


Sources of HDL Cholesterol and LDL Cholesterol


Commercially prepared or animal-based products can contain low-density lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol. Foods that contain trans fat and saturated fat can also be source of LDL cholesterol, in accordance with the American Heart Association. Animal-based products contain saturated fats. Commercially prepared foods that contain partially hydrogenated oils and shortening can contain trans fats. In order to look after cardiovascular health, LDL cholesterol levels need to be monitored and regulated. Some of the sources of LDL cholesterol are as follows:


Dairy Foods

LDL cholesterol is present in whole fat dairy foods in the form of saturated fats. Varieties of dairy products are considered as whole fat dairy, in accordance with the American Heart Association. Such LDL containing foods include mayonnaise, milk, butter, cream, eggnog, soft cheese, hard cheese, cottage cheese, ice cream, sour cream and yogurt. The whole fat category foods get labeled as containing two percent fat. 


High amount of cholesterol is present in egg yolks. There can be 215 milligrams of LDL in one egg yolk, in accordance with USDA. It is not a good idea to eat egg yolks if your cholesterol level is a major concern for you.


Red Meats

A variety of red meats like beef, lamb, veal and pork can be source LDL cholesterol. The fattier the meat, the more of a source it can be for LDL cholesterol. There can be about 72 grams of LDL in a serving size of prime rib, in accordance with the USDA. Organ meats such as brain, liver, tripe and kidneys also contain LDL, as pointed out by the USDA.


Lean Protein

LDL can be found in lean protein sources like poultry without skin, fish, shellfish, etc. Shellfish includes clams, lobster, crab, scallop, shrimp and oysters. The amount of LDL in lean protein sources is less than the amount of LDL in red meat.


Processed Foods

Processed meats like cold cuts, sausage, bologna, pepperoni and hot dogs contain LDL cholesterol, in accordance with the American Heart Association. LDL is also present in other processed foods such as bread, breakfast cereals, energy bars, crackers, deep-fried fast foods, boxed foods, many restaurant foods, canned foods and prepackaged foods.


Foods Containing Trans Fats

Trans fat is a source of large amount of LDL. It does not just increase your LDL level but also lower your HDL level. Trans fats are usually used in commercially prepared baked goods like pies, cakes, pastries and doughnuts. Potato chips can also contain trans fats when they are fried in shortening.


HDL Cholesterol Friendly Foods

LDL cholesterol can contribute to plaque, which can clog your arteries. It can eventually cause a heart attack or stroke. The HDL cholesterol luckily can help reduce amount of LDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol can significantly reduce risk of developing cardiovascular disease. You can boost your HDL cholesterol level by eating certain foods that are as follows:


Olive Oil

Olive and olive oil contain heart-healthy fat that can reduce inflammatory impact of LDL cholesterol on your body and enhance your HDL. It is a good idea to prefer extra-virgin olive oil over other oils.      


Whole Grains

Whole grains such as cereals, bran and wild or brown rice may help boost your HDL levels. It is because they provide fiber, especially soluble fiber. It is a good idea to have at least two servings of whole grains per day.


Beans and Legumes

Beans and legumes are filled with soluble fiber and useful in enhancing the HDL level and lowering the LDL level.


High-Fiber Fruit 

Fruits that are packed with fiber can help lower your LDL level and boost your HDL levels. Fiber rich fruits include pears, apples, prunes, etc.


Fatty Fish

Omega-3 fatty acid can be found in fish. It can help lower your LDL level and enhance HDL level. Salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, rainbow trout and sardines are the fishes to go for. It is good to have at least two servings of fish per week. In case you do not eat enough fish, you can consult your doctor and try fish oil or supplements. Real food remains a better option than supplements.



Flaxseed oil and ground flaxseeds are plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acid, which can enhance your HDL cholesterol level. It is important to consume ground flaxseed. Whole flaxseeds pass through your body almost intact and do not release any of their nutrients. You can sprinkle ground flaxseed into your morning cereal, salads, oatmeal, yogurt, dips, etc.



Nuts including almonds, Brazil nuts, peanuts, pistachios, and others are packed with heart-healthy fats. They are also rich in fiber. They provide a substance known as plant sterols. Plant sterols prevent absorption of cholesterol in your body. You can eat one or two ounces of nuts for a snack.



Chia seeds are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and other healthy nutrients. Chia seeds can help enhance your HDL level and lower LDL levels. You can add chia seeds to cereal, dips, oatmeal, yogurt or smoothies.



Avocados are filled with healthy monounsaturated fat and fiber. They can help enhance your HDL level and lower LDL level.


There are also things other than food that cholesterol levels go or down for. Regular exercise and weight loss can help boost your HDL level and LDL level. Sometimes, genetics can be a major factor in your cholesterol level. Digestive system can also be another major factor, in some cases. In such cases, it is important to get help from a doctor.


How to Boost Good Cholesterol?


High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is also known as the good cholesterol. Enhanced level of HDL helps transport cholesterol from your arteries to your liver. The cholesterol then gets either used or excreted. High levels of HDL can have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, and is associated with lowered risk of heart disease.


The recommended minimum HDL levels are 40 mg/dl and 50 mg/dl for men and women respectively. Even though genetics play a role in HDL levels, other factors also matter. Below are some healthy ways to enhance your HDL cholesterol.


Consuming Olive Oil

Olive oil is one of the healthiest sources of fat. Extra virgin olive can be healthier option than processed olive oil. Numerous studies suggest that olive is the only source of monounsaturated fat that seemingly lowers the risk of heart disease. One of the heart-healthy effects of olive oil is enhancement of HDL levels, as found out in research. Olive oil contains antioxidant, namely polyphenols which is believed to be the cause for heart-healthy effects. Extra virgin olive oil contains more antioxidant or polyphenols than processed olive oil, even though the amount of polyphenol can vary depending on the types and brands.


Studies have shown that olive oil consumption can significantly increase HDL level. Studies involving older people or people with high cholesterol level have shown that olive oil can not only raise HDL level but also enhance HDL’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory function.


Following a Ketogenic or Low-Carb Diet

Low-carb diets have numerous health benefits including reduction in blood sugar levels and weight loss. They can also contribute to raising HDL-C level in those who have lower levels. These people include but are not limited to those who are diabetic or obese. Studies have shown that both obese and diabetic people benefitted from low-carb diet in terms of enhanced HDL-C levels. Studies have also found that HDL-C levels can go down due to a low-fat and high-carb diet. On top of increasing HDL-C level, low-carb diet can also help decrease triglycerides and take care of several risk factors for heart disease.


Exercise Regularly

Being physically active is beneficial for heart health. Different types of exercises like strength training, high-intensity exercise and aerobic exercise are effective in increasing HDL-C level. High-intensity exercise is usually associated with high amount of increase in HDL-C. High-intensity exercise resulted in 10% increase in HDL-C, as found out in a 12-week study. On the other hand, in a similar study, low-intensity exercise resulted in 2% increase in HDL-C. Low-intensity exercise is still beneficial as it seemingly increases HDL’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capacities. High-intensity exercises like high-intensity circuit training (HICT) and high-intensity interval training(HIIT) may enhance HDL cholesterol levels the most.


Adding Coconut Oil to your Diet

Coconut oil may be associated with reduced appetite, increased metabolic rate, protection for brain health and other health benefits. Even though coconut oil has saturated fat content, it surprisingly turns out to be heart-healthy. Coconut oil seems to be better than any other types of fat in increasing HDL-C level. Additionally, coconut oil may also change the ratio of LDL-C or bad cholesterol and HDL-C or good cholesterol in favor of heart health. A study involving 40 women with excess belly fat, found out that daily consumption of coconut oil enhanced participant’s HDL-C level and lowered LDL-to-HDL ratio. On the other hand, a similar study found that regular consumption of soybean oil resulted in decrease in HDL-C and an increase in the ratio of LDL-to-HDL. Consuming about two tablespoons or 30 milliliter of coconut oil per day is beneficial for health. It’s a good idea to use the coconut oil in cooking rather than eating it on its own.


Quitting Smoking

Quitting smoking can be beneficial for many reasons including reduction of risk of heart disease and lung cancer. One of the adverse effects of smoking is suppression of HDL levels. Quitting smoking can help enhance HDL levels, as found out in some studies. In fact, one study found out that there is insignificant difference in HDL levels between people who have never smoked and former smoker. Those who quit smoking can have about twice the increase in HDL as those who resume smoking within a year, as found out in a one-year study involving more than 1500 people. As a result of quitting smoking, the number of large HDL particles increases, which lowers the risk of heart disease. One study found out that small increase in HDL-C occurred even in those who switched from traditional cigarettes to electronic cigarettes for one year. In some cases where people quit smoking but HDL-C levels didn’t improve, HDL function still got enhanced, reducing inflammation and resulting in other beneficial effects on heart health.  


Losing Weight

HDL-C levels usually increase when overweight people lose weight. The benefit seemingly occurs regardless of whether weight loss happens by means of weight loss surgery, intermittent fasting, calorie counting, carb restriction or a combination of exercise and diet. Studies confirm the association between loss of weight and increase in HDL-C levels. Exercise and a weight-loss friendly diet are useful in losing weight and enhancing HDL-C level.


Choosing Purple Produce

Eating purple-colored fruits and vegetables is a good way to potentially enhance HDL-C levels. Purple produce has antioxidants known as anthocyanins. Studies found out that anthocyanin extracts have numerous health benefits and may also increase HDL-C levels. Taking anthocyanin supplement twice a day resulted in about 19% increase in HDL-C levels alongside other improvements in heart health markers, as found out in a 24-week study involving 58 people with diabetes. Another 12-week study found out that people with cholesterol issues experienced about 13.7 % increase in HDL-C level by means of consuming anthocyanin extracts. Even though these studies used extracts instead of foods, there are fruits and vegetables that are rich in anthocyanins. These foods include purple corn, eggplant, blueberries, red cabbage, blackberries and black raspberries.


Eating Fatty Fish

Fatty fish contains omega-3 fats that can be beneficial for heart health. Omega-3 fat can help reduce inflammation and boost functioning of the cells that line your arteries. Eating fatty fish or taking fish oil supplement may help enhance HDL-C levels. A study involving 33 heart disease patients, found out that eating fatty fish four times a week not only increased HDL-C levels but also increased the particle size of HDL. Fatty fishes that can help enhance HDL level include herring, sardines, salmon, anchovies and mackerel.


Avoiding Artificial Trans Fat

Trans fat is injurious to health. It may also lower HDL-C levels. In order to avoid HDL-C levels getting lowered and to avoid other health issues, it’s important to avoid consumption of trans fat, particularly the artificial one used in processed foods. Research also validates the link between consumption of artificial trans fat and reduction of HDL-C levels.



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