In the United States, cardiovascular disease is the No.1 cause of death, taking an average of 2,200 lives each day, according to the American Heart Association. Your total cholesterol is determined by your triglyceride, LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol levels. A total cholesterol of 200 mg/dL or less decreases your risk for cardiovascular disease development. Your level of HDL, the "good" cholesterol, should be 60 mg/dL or greater to protect you against heart disease.
Quit smoking to increase HDL cholesterol. in 2012, University of Florida researchers found that a toxic chemical in cigarette smoke acts to lower your body's HDL levels. Start by cutting back on the number of cigarettes you smoke. When your body adjusts to having less nicotine, work to eliminate smoking from your daily routine to gradually improve your good cholesterol levels.
Lose weight to improve your body mass index, or BMI, and support higher HDL levels. In a July 2012 "Artherosclerosis" study, individuals who lost at least 5 percent of their body weight showed a favorable increase in HDL concentrations. Determine your calorie and protein needs for weight loss. Eliminate 500 calories per day from your diet by watching meal portions and exercise to lose 1 pound of weight per week. Track your physical activity and food and beverage intake in a journal or on an online program to see if you are meeting your goals.
Increase physical activity to 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week to improve your good cholesterol. A review article published in "The American Journal of Cardiology" in January 2012 found that more frequent exercise caused a positive rise in HDL levels. Aerobic, strength-building and flexibility and balance exercise should all be part of your physical activity regimen. Try jogging, walking, swimming, biking or even housework for aerobic exercise. Build muscle and strength with weightlifting sessions focusing on different areas of the body such as arms, legs, shoulders and abdomen. Increase your flexibility with stretching. Yoga and Pilates are two additional exercise options to improve flexibility.
Include sources of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet regularly to see an improvement in HDL levels. A 2006 review article in "Atherosclerosis" found that people taking fish oil supplements containing DHA and EPA long-chain, omega-3 fatty acids had modest increases in HDL levels. In an article in "U.S. News & World Report," Stephen Kopecky, professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, advised supporting the diet with a daily 1-gram fish oil supplement consisting of both DHA and EPA to lower cardiovascular disease risk. DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acid supplementation can come from algae extract or fatty fish such as salmon or tuna. Research on ALA, a short-chain omega-3 fatty acid, continues to determine if it has the same effect on cardiovascular health that DHA and EPA do, reported Kopecky. ALA sources of omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseed, walnuts and canola or soybean oil.
Talk with your doctor before using any nutritional supplements or starting an exercise routine.