Every day, we are flooded with information about cholesterol being the prime accused of the incidence of heart attack. The questions that constantly bother us are why too much of it is a cause for concern and how to keep it in check.
Know your Cholesterol
There are two types of cholesterol – good and bad. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is the bad, while High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is the good cholesterol. Certain factors such as sedentary lifestyle, being overweight, smoking, alcohol, diabetes, high blood pressure, under-active thyroid gland, wrong genetics, age, early menopause and over consumption of foods like red meat, sausages, cheese, pastry, cakes, cause rise in cholesterol levels.
When a person follows a healthy lifestyle and dietary habits, his body is capable of handling excess cholesterol. The liver compensates for the excess cholesterol by reducing its own production, keeping blood levels in check. But, when a person leads an unhealthy lifestyle and has no control over his diet, his body fails to handle dietary cholesterol with expertise and allows excess cholesterol to travel into the bloodstream.
High cholesterol in the blood along with other factors initiates the process of plaque formation called cholesterol plaques, which narrow the arteries and lead to heart disease. Basically, reducing LDL and increasing HDL significantly lowers the risk of heart attack.
How to Increase HDL & Reduce LDL?
Low HDL levels cause the build-up of LDL in the blood and some of it gets deposited along the inner lining of the arteries. High levels of HDL protect the heart and blood vessels by reducing LDL cholesterol in blood. High levels of HDL also produce other protective effects such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-clot effects on heart and blood vessels.
Many people look for how to increase HDL cholesterol. However, it is important to regulate both the good and bad cholesterol. It is not only important to know how to increase HDL cholesterol, but also to maintain it at 40mg/dl & above. The bad cholesterol should be below 130 mg/dl.
Before we tell you how to increase HDL, you need to understand what causes it. The most obvious cause of high cholesterol is genetics. A family history of heart problems or cardiovascular disease can make liver unable to produce enough good cholesterol.
Drugs like steroids, smoking, excessive alcohol, little or no exercise, excessive intake of PUFA oils from corn, sunflower, safflower and unhealthy eating habits can lower HDL levels.
How to Increase HDL Cholesterol
Following simple lifestyle and dietary changes can greatly improve HDL levels in most people, but for some, medication is a must Here are some of the ways to how to increase HDL –
Add soluble fibre to your diet
Soluble fibre in oats, fruits, vegetables and legumes reduce LDL cholesterol and increase HDL. How to increase HDL? Just eat minimum two servings a day of foods with soluble fibre.
Choose better fats
Minimise the usage of foods containing saturated fat and trans-fat like cakes, pies, crackers and cookies and biscuits. The reason? They increase LDL and decrease HDL cholesterol. Also, do not opt for foods containing partially hydrogenated oils. Instead, choose monounsaturated fats as they lower the risk of heart diseases. Foods containing monounsaturated fats include
- Olive and canola oils
- Nuts like almonds, walnuts and peanuts
- Seeds like til and flaxseeds
- Omega-3 fatty acids found in soy foods, salmon and sardines are the best options for a healthy heart
Eat foods rich in phytosterols
Phytosterols are plant cholesterols. Soy is one of the phytosterol-rich foods that have a significant impact on cholesterol levels due to the presence of chemical compounds called isoflavones. Soy products include soy milk, tofu and soy flour. Other foods containing phytosterols include: canola oil, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and oil, peanuts, rice bran and green peas.
Read more: Cholesterol and diet: What’s the connection?
Curtail simple carbohydrates
Cakes, cookies, processed cereal, bread, rice, sugar and maida cause spikes in blood sugar levels. Foods that raise blood sugar cause a fall in the HDL levels and it is best to avoid such foods.
Natural supplements have proven to reduce LDL cholesterol and increase HDL. Food supplements such as soya lecithin granules, rice bran and pumpkin seed oil are among the best and are as effective as prescription stating drugs, with no harmful side effects.
How to increase HDL? Exercise regularly and do weight training. No time to hit the gym? Go for a brisk walk every day for 45 minutes to improve HDL level.
Manage your weight
Losing even 5% of your body weight will go a long way in managing cholesterol levels. Weight loss helps to answer how to increase HDL, lower LDL, total cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Quit smoking & alcohol
Give up tobacco to increase HDL and your overall health. Drink red wine in moderation to increase good cholesterol level. However, if you are a diabetic or insulin resistant it may not be a good idea to include it in your diet.
The Health Total Cholesterol Management plan effectively reduces bad cholesterol levels. Our experts recommend simple lifestyle and diet changes. To get a personalised diet plan call toll-free 1800-891-8131 to book your free appointment right away!