WARNING: Heart disease now kills 1 of every 3 adult Americans!!
It has long been understood that elevated LDL (“bad”) cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease. Recommended goal levels for LDL are lower for patients who have known cardiovascular disease or diabetes. If you are one of our patients, you are probably already on appropriate cholesterol-lowering medication and thus in full compliance with LDL guidelines.
A 10% reduction in cholesterol levels can result in a
30% reduction in the incidence of heart attacks and strokes.
There is another type of cholesterol, HDL (“good” cholesterol), that seems to actually remove existing cholesterol deposits from artery walls. In the past few years there has been mounting evidence that having higher levels of HDL cholesterol (above 45) can further decrease cardiac risk even when the LDL levels are well within the recommended guidelines. If you're sedentary, there's a good chance your HDL is low. The higher you can raise your HDL, the better.
Unfortunately, even our best cholesterol-lowering medicines raise HDL levels only slightly, so we must often resort to other methods to raise HDL to “safer” levels.
Here are several ways you can lower your cholesterol and raise HDL:
- Aerobic Exercise (a daily 30-minute walk is adequate) will raise HDL several points
- Weight Loss will raise HDL
- Smoking Cessation will raise HDL
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids were the rage for a few years, but new studies have shown that they do not lower your cardiovascular risk, and, in fact, may raise LDL (the "bad" cholesterol)
- Reduce Fat Intake to no more than 30% of daily calories
- Minimize “Trans Fatty Acids” (called “partially hydrogenated vegetable oils” on nutrition labels) – high levels found in fried foods, fast foods, packaged baked goods
- Use “Monounsaturated Fats” in your diet (canola oil, olive oil)
- Add Soluble Fiber to your diet (oats, fruits, vegetables, and legumes)
- Alcohol – one glass of red wine a day, max
- Niacin can raise HDL if taken in high enough doses (but can sometimes produce flushing, headaches, and other unpleasant symptoms; so discuss Niacin with us)
Although all of these techniques can produce some improvement in HDL, the single best way to raise your HDL is regular aerobic exercise. Please visit the Fitness Section of our site for more information.