HDL cholesterol, or “good” cholesterol, appears to scour the walls of blood vessels, cleaning out excess cholesterol.
It then carries that excess cholesterol — which otherwise might have been used to make the “plaques” that cause coronary artery disease — back to the liver for processing.
HDL levels below 40 mg/dL result in an increased risk of coronary artery disease, even in people whose total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels are normal.
HDL levels between 40 and 60 mg/dL are considered “normal.” However, HDL levels greater than 60 mg/dL may actually protect people from heart disease. Indeed, for several years, doctors have known that when it comes to HDL levels, the higher the better.
So how can we increase HDL levels? Regular aerobic exercise (any exercise, such as walking or jogging that raises your heart rate for 20 to 30 minutes at a time) may be the most effective way to increase HDL levels.
Furthermore, recent research suggests that the duration of the exercise, rather than the intensity, is the more important factor in raising HDL cholesterol. But any aerobic exercise helps.
Another way in which we can raise HDL levels is to lose weight. Obesity results not only in increased LDL “bad” cholesterol, but also in reduces HDL cholesterol.
If you’re overweight, reducing weight should increase your HDL levels. This is especially important if the excess weight is stored in the abdominal area.
Focus on increasing physical activity and decreasing body weight in order to achieve a healthy body weight and increase HDL levels.