You can imagine my surprise after my last blood test when my doctor told me I needed to raise my cholesterol levels. What? I had a stroke the year before and had revamped my diet to lower my cholesterol. I was slowly able to walk and move more and was adding as much exercise as my body could handle. I had successfully dropped an extremely high cholesterol level to well within normal ranges. Now she wanted me to raise my cholesterol levels again?
That’s because there are two types of cholesterol; good cholesterol, or HDL (high-density lipoproteins) and bad cholesterol, or LDL (low-density lipoproteins). HDL scour the walls of the blood vessels, sweeping away excess fat and cholesterol in the blood and carries it back to the liver for processing, preventing plaque build-up. We’ve all heard that it is important to decrease bad cholesterol, but it is just as important to keep our HDL levels high. I had lowered my bad cholesterol levels but my good cholesterol had dropped as well.
An HDL reading less than 40 mg/dL is considered to be a major risk factor for heart disease, with a reading between 40 and 50 mg/dL recommended, while readings over 60mg/dL indicate a significantly lowered risk of heart disease. My HDL had dropped to a risky 32 mg/dL. The question now was how to raise good cholesterol. Listed below are some suggestions that will help.
Lose Excess Fat by Increasing Activity: It is important to lose excess body fat. But, often dieting alone can cause the desirable HDL to drop along with LDL. By increasing regular physical activity with aerobic exercise, this trend is stopped and good HDL levels will increase. Aerobic exercise is any constant activity that increases your heart rate. Please note that exercise has a powerful, yet short-lived effect, so it is important to exercise on a consistent basis. Studies show that people who exercise regularly tend to have higher HDL.
Research shows that HDL may be elevated as much as 20 percent from regular aerobic exercise that expends at least 800 to 1,200 calories per week. For example, walking at 3 miles per hour burns roughly 300 calories per hour, so walking 3 to 4 hours a week would meet this goal. Further studies show that the duration of exercise, rather than the intensity is a more important factor in raising HDL. Any aerobic exercise will have a greater effect the longer you can participate in that activity. Instead of increasing how hard you exercise, try adding a little more time to your activity for the greater HDL benefits. Studies show that for every 10 minutes of additional exercise HDL may increase by 1.4 mg/dL
Weight control is critical to raising HDL levels. Researchers note that every kilogram (2.2 pounds) of weight a patient loses raises HDL levels by an average 0.35 mg/dL. So, get walking, hiking, swimming, biking or whatever. Just increase your activity and control what you eat.
Stop Smoking: Giving up tobacco will result in an increase of HDL. Studies show this can raise your HDL by about 4 mg/dL. If you do smoke, please stop! Smoking puts you at high risk for heart disease and stroke. Believe me, these are not experiences you want, especially since they are the #1 and #3 killers in this country and strokes are the #1 cause of disability.
Eliminate Trans Fats: High intakes of trans fats lower HDL. It is hard enough to improve cholesterol levels with food. Cutting out fast foods, processed foods and foods made with hydrogenated oils will at least stop drops in good cholesterol and will stem the rise of bad cholesterol. This is not an easy task since many of our favorite prepared foods contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.
Alcohol: One or two drinks a day, no more, can show a beneficial increase to HDL levels, regardless of the type of alcohol, by up to 4 mg/dL. But, use caution if you have liver or other conditions affected by alcohol or you have an addictive nature. Consult your doctor.
Improved Diet: What we eat can help lower overall cholesterol and increase HDL levels. It gets so hard with our lifestyles these days. I had a problem eating right while working an 8-5 job, juggling home life and personal activities. It is just so much easier to eat processed foods. But it can be done. The more I find foods I like that are good for me and include them in my diet, the less room I have for not-so-good foods.
Canola oil, avocado oil, olive oil and the oils found in peanut butter can increase HDL, as can soy, flaxseed, eating more nuts such as almonds, cashews, walnuts, peanuts and pecans. A 2004 study in Diabetes Care found that men and women with type 2 diabetes who included 30 grams of walnuts a day in their diet showed improved HDL levels.
Soluble fiber found in fruits, vegetables, beans and oats help reduce LDL and raise HDL. Orange juice and cranberry juice have also been shown to be beneficial, as are cold-water fish containing omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna and mackerel. High glycemic products like cereals and breads on the other hand are associated with lower HDL levels. Consumption of the products should be reduced.
Magnesium rich foods have been shown to both help raise good cholesterol, lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar levels and lower blood fats These include spinach, black beans, kidney beans, lima beans, soybeans, halibut, peanuts, pumpkin seeds and some whole grains.
Other herbs and nutrients that have been beneficial are niacin (vitamin B3), guggul (a gum resin from the mukul myrrh tree), curcumin, chromium and calcium citrate.
As you can see, with a few dietary changes and increasing aerobic physical activity you can win the battle over cholesterol for life. For the balance of this article discussing the above mentioned supplements, please visit my website for the full article.
Author Resource: Jeff Keto suffered a stroke in March, 2007 requiring a much healthier diet and lifestyle. Product links available at: http://njkmarketing.com
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