We know cholesterol is an important factor in staying healthy. There have been plenty of studies and reports over the past ten years that have linked high cholesterol numbers to an increased risk of heart and cardiovascular disease. But did you know that not all cholesterol needs to be low?
In addition to the “bad” cholesterol that can stick to the walls of the arteries and cause plaque to develop, there is also “good” cholesterol that can help the body to rid itself of these deposits by helping to eliminate them through the liver. This type is called HDL cholesterol, and instead of bringing this number down, you should be striving to keep this count high. How high? A good HDL cholesterol number is one that is above 60. Anything lower than 40 is considered poor, and should be a cause for concern.
Raising the Numbers
If you are concerned about your HDL cholesterol, the next logical question would be how to raise that number higher? While there is plenty advice available on how to lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol number, there isn’t as much information available on how to raise the HDL cholesterol level. Part of the reason for this is that we probably don’t have as much control over this number.
For example, women tend to have higher HDL cholesterol levels prior to the menopausal years, primarily due to the hormones in her system. There have been some studies that have shown there are certain methods that might effectively raise this number.
A diet that is low in carbohydrates may increase the HDL cholesterol count by as much as 10%, so stock up on the fruits, veggies and whole grains. It may also be helpful to cut back on substances like salt and fat and limit your caloric intake. Adding soy protein to your diet may also increase your HDL cholesterol by 3% or so. Some studies have also shown that taking a daily vitamin supplement may help to raise the HDL levels significantly. You can also work to lower your LDL levels through a healthy diet, exercise and possible medications.
Cholesterol is a significant factor in heart disease, because the plaque deposits that can result from an unhealthy cholesterol number can make it more difficult for blood to pass through the arteries. This in turn forces your heart to work harder to pump the blood throughout your body, and thus puts a strain on this important organ. The end result can be a less healthy heart and a greater risk of heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular disease.
All of the above efforts can combine to bring your cholesterol levels to a healthy number that will greatly reduce your risk of heart disease.