By Connie Limon
The best way to lower your risk of heart disease is to reduce LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol. Increased risk of coronary artery disease is caused by the bad cholesterol buildup (LDL cholesterol) that forms plaques. These plaques make arteries hard and narrow, which contributes to coronary artery disease.
The good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) picks up excess cholesterol in your blood and takes it back to your liver for disposal. The higher your HDL cholesterol, the less bad cholesterol you will have in your blood.
If you donâ€™t know your HDL level, ask your doctor for a baseline cholesterol test. You need to think â€œhighâ€ when it comes to HDL cholesterol. Most people should have an HDL level of 60 mg/dL or above. An HDL level below 40 mg/dL increases the risk of heart disease. If your HDL level is not within a desirable range, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes.
Even the smallest changes to your daily habits can help you meet your HDL target level. Review the following:
â€¢ Donâ€™t smoke. Smoking lowers HDL cholesterol (remember you want to think in terms of what will raise your HDL cholesterol levels).
â€¢ Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight lowers HDL cholesterol. If you are overweight, losing just a few pounds can increase your HDL level.
â€¢ Get more physical activity. Studies have shown that regular aerobic exercise increases HDL cholesterol. Aim for at least 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic activity on most days of the week, if not every day. If you canâ€™t fit a long workout into your schedule, break it up into smaller sessions spread out through the day.
â€¢ Choose healthier fats. You need to include some fat in your diet to be healthy. However, you must choose healthy fats and stay away from the unhealthy choices. Use less saturated fat. Avoid foods that contain trans fat. This includes most margarine, most commercial baked products and anything with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Monounsaturated fat found in olive, peanut and canola oils is a healthier choice. Nuts, fish and other foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids are other good choices.
â€¢ Drink alcohol in moderation. If you already drink some alcohol red wine has been linked with higher levels of HDL cholesterol in some studies. The benefits are not strong enough to recommend red wine to people who do not drink already. If you already drink alcohol, drink in moderation, no more than one drink per day for women and one to two drinks per day for men. There are some medications used to lower LDL cholesterol that may also increase HDL cholesterol. These medications include:
â€¢ Fibrates (Lopid and others)
â€¢ Stains (Lipitor, Zocor and others)
Researchers continue to study for other medications. In the meanwhile, lifestyle changes will help you to achieve an optimal HDL level. If your doctor prescribes a medication to help control your cholesterol, take it as directed while you incorporate healthy lifestyle habits into your daily routine as well.
Source: Mayo Clinic
Disclaimer: The information in this article is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about specific medical concerns.
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