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How to Increase Your Good Cholesterol

Cholesterol is part of your body’s natural chemistry. However, more times than not when people talk about watching their cholesterol, they are talking about making good lifestyle choices to reduce bad cholesterol. This means saying no to processed foods or that decadent dessert. 

What you may not know is that cholesterol is an important part of the human body chemistry, and it has many useful functions like facilitating cell development. But like many things in life, cholesterol has its pluses and minuses, which we commonly refer to as “good cholesterol” and “bad cholesterol.”

In this blog, our highly experienced providers here at Internal Medicine & Pediatric Clinic share with you a quick primer on cholesterol and how you can increase your good cholesterol for optimal health.

Cholesterol 101 

Cholesterol is a waxy material found in all your cells. If your doctor has ever ordered a lipid panel blood test to accompany an annual physical, you probably remember reviewing the results and discussing the levels for your good cholesterol or HDL (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol) and your bad cholesterol or LDL (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol).

What makes bad cholesterol bad is that over time it can build up and narrow your blood vessels, leading to life-threatening conditions like hypertension, stroke, or heart attack. Adversely, good cholesterol works to sweep away excess bad cholesterol. Cholesterol is measured by milligrams per deciliter, so think under 100 for bad cholesterol and 50 or higher for good cholesterol. 

If you are among the millions of Americans struggling with high cholesterol, knowing how to gain control over your levels and specifically how to boost your good cholesterol levels can literally save your life.

Eat a healthy, balanced diet

One of the best ways to increase your good cholesterol is to commit to making better food choices. But eating a healthy, well-balanced diet doesn’t have to be boring. By making some modest changes like cooking with oils with less saturated or trans fats like olive or canola oil is a good start. The American Heart Association has designated some products as “heart-healthy” so you can look for that when you’re shopping. Many restaurant food menus also designate some more healthy choices for you. Simple changes like broiling instead of frying can also make a difference.

Find simple ways to improve your eating habits. For instance, instead of eating a bowl of ice cream for dessert, make a yogurt parfait with low-fat greek yogurt using whole-grain cereal, heart-healthy nuts, and sliced fruit as toppings. If you enjoy snacking, ditch the bowl of salty chips and snack on nuts rich in Omega-3 fatty acids like walnuts and almonds. Studies have shown that walnuts in particular not only boost your good cholesterol but also reduce your bad cholesterol. Also, try to avoid processed foods and sugary drinks; you may just discover that a slice of lemon in water is as refreshing as a carbonated soda.

Proteins like poultry and lean meats as well as vegetables are important components of a well-balanced diet. If you like fish, focus on tuna, salmon, trout, herring, and mackerel. These fish options are full of Omega-3 fatty acids. While they won’t boost your good cholesterol, they can lower your bad cholesterol. 

Get up and stay active

Although there are medications like statins that can reduce high LDLs and increase HDLs, making some lifestyle choices may lower cholesterol levels naturally. If you are sedentary, get up and stay active. The best part of this lifestyle change is that you don’t have to start training for a marathon. Regular exercise like walking can help. If you want to take it up a notch, doing 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of higher intensity exercise during the week will be time well spent. 

Watch your weight

If you’re overweight or obese, you’re much more likely to have a lot more bad cholesterol and less good cholesterol. Work with our providers to lose some weight and maintain a healthy weight. Weight management will not only improve your cholesterol levels but enhance your overall health. Your cholesterol levels, your waistline, and your heart will receive dividends when you watch your weight. It’s a win-win-win!

 Sometimes lifestyle changes are not enough to control cholesterol levels especially for those patients with a family history of high cholesterol. In these cases, we may recommend a combination of medication and lifestyle changes. 

To learn more about your cholesterol and how to enhance your health, contact our board-certified physicians and the medical team at Internal Medicine & Pediatric Clinic in New Albany, Mississippi, for a cholesterol assessment and treatment options. Request an appointment online or call today.

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