The Good Cholesterol (HDL)
HDL cholesterol is known as “good” cholesterol, because high levels of HDL protects against heart attacks. Low levels of HDL (less than 40 mg/dL for men and less than 50 mg/dL for women) increases the risk of heart disease. Therefore, the higher your HDL cholesterol the better!
How to Increase the Good Cholesterol
If you need to increase your HDL to your reach your goals, increase your physical activity, try doing at least 150 minutes of moderate-intense aerobic physical activity (e.g. brisk walking) every week to help your body produce more HDLs. Reducing trans fats and eating a balanced, nutritious diet is another way to increase HDL. If you smoke – stop: cigarette smoking can decrease your HDL. If these measures are not enough to increase your HDL to goal, your healthcare practitioner may prescribe a medication specifically to increase your HDLs.
The Bad Cholesterol (LDL)
When too much LDL (bad) cholesterol circulates in the blood, it can slowly build up in the inner walls of the arteries that feed the heart and brain. Together with other substances, it can form plaque, a thick, hard deposit that can narrow the arteries and make them less flexible. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. If a clot forms and blocks a narrowed artery, heart attack or stroke can result.
What Causes an Increase in Bad Cholesterol?
Bad cholesterol (LDL) is produced naturally by the body, but many people inherit genes from their mother, father or even grandparents that cause them to make too much. Eating saturated fat, trans fats and dietary cholesterol also increases how much you have. If high blood cholesterol runs in your family, lifestyle modifications may not be enough to help lower your LDL blood cholesterol. Everyone is different, so work with your doctor to find a treatment plan that’s best for you.
The Ugly Side of Cholesterol
High cholesterol can lead to coronary artery disease (CAD), heart attack, stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA), and peripheral arterial disease. So, it is important to work with your physician and pharmacist to keep your cholesterol levels in range to prevent these from happening.
Tips to Successfully Lower Bad Cholesterol
- Eat a heart-healthy diet
A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, fiber-rich whole grains, lean meats and poultry, fish at least twice a week and fat-free or 1 percent dairy products. Also eating foods low in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars are a delicious way to help your cholesterol levels.
- Get moving Enjoy at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity more days than not for a total of at least 150 minutes per week. Walk, bike, swim, jog, dance — whatever you love to do, do it. If you need to lower your cholesterol or blood pressure, aim for 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity 3 to 4 times per week.
- Avoid tobacco smoke If you smoke, your cholesterol level is one more good reason to quit. And everyone should avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
- Tips for Success Following a healthy diet and lifestyle can give you the edge in the fight against heart disease and stroke — take an active part. Follow your physician’s advice carefully, and if you don’t understand something, ask. Let your physician or pharmacist be your coach in combating heart disease and stroke. It’s your health. It’s your heart.