In every cholesterol panel, there are three main components measured: HDL, also known as “good” cholesterol; LDL, also known as “bad” cholesterol; and triglycerides.
HDL is the cholesterol that is beneficial to heart health and plays a very important role in keeping our arteries clean. It takes some of the LDL cholesterol – the “bad” cholesterol – away from the side of the arteries and brings it back to the liver for recycling. This is called, “reverse cholesterol transport.”
Having a high HDL is great for you; studies show that people with a high HDL (over 55 for women, over 45 for men and children) live longer and have a lower risk of heart disease.
You can raise your HDL by:
1. Getting regular, aerobic exercise. This can mean jogging, biking, cardio at the gym, swimming, spin class, dancing – whatever you like. Just be sure your heart rate goes up for at least 15 minutes so you get the full benefits.
2. Eating foods that are rich in healthy oils: olive oil, fish, nuts, nut butter and avocado are all great sources. (find HDL-raising recipes here)
3. Avoiding trans fats. These are found in fried foods and many processed foods – watch out for the ingredient “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.” Trans fats not only raise your bad cholesterol, they lower your good cholesterol.
Be sure to talk to your doctor about the best ways for you to raise your HDL.