Is Cholesterol Good for You?

Doctors encourage to raise our HDL (good) cholesterol. That’s because people with high HDL tend to be at lower risk of heart disease.

HDL cholesterol is thought to be healthy because it transports fat from the arteries into the liver for disposal or recycling. People with HDL levels above 60 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) tend to have a lower risk for heart disease. Not unreasonably, doctors and scientists assumed that deliberately boosting HDL would lower cardiac risk even more — much the same way that lowering bad cholesterol does.

What does HDL cholesterol do?

LDL (bad) cholesterol forms fatty deposits (plaques) in the coronary arteries that can cause heart attacks. HDL removes cholesterol from the blood and transports it to the liver for elimination or recycling.

How to boost your good cholesterol

Exercise more, vigorous exercise is best for boosting your HDL cholesterol, but any extra exercise is better than none.

Lose weight, if you are overweight, losing 5% to 10% of your current weight can raise HDL, along with reducing blood pressure and blood sugar.

Avoid trans fats, not eating these artificial fats — found in hard margarines, many baked goods, and fried fast foods — raises HDL cholesterol. Reducing your intake also helps to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Cut back on refined carbs, you can switch from refined carbohydrates (such as white bread) to whole grains. It also helps to add more lean protein to your diet.

Don’t smoke, quitting smoking improves HDL and helps your health in many other ways.

If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation, one or two drinks per day. Moderate alcohol consumption supports healthy HDL levels, but it isn’t something you should start doing specifically to boost good cholesterol.

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