Help me increase my "good" cholesterol
September 14, 2007 3:33 PM   Subscribe

What has worked (in your personal experience) to raise your "good cholesterol" or HDL?

I know what they tell you to do--more exercise, more fiber, good fats instead of bad, etc., but what's the most efficient (or alternatively, the least unpleasant) method that you have found that actually works?

I'm not much of an athlete, but I am a good cook. Most likely why my HDL is low in the first place. Sigh.
posted by exceptinsects to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I have not found one thing that works for me to raise the HDL cholesterol. I exercised 6 days a week for 2 years and never changed the number but 2 points. Some medications indicate that they can raise the HDL. I am now on Zocor and it does nothing for me. It keeps my overal cholesterol at a good level (135). My doctor says it is the hardest thing to do and I should just do the best that I can.
I eat oatmeal daily. I eat flax seed as well. And have eaten that daily for more than 2 years.
posted by JayRwv at 4:24 PM on September 14, 2007

Best answer: When I had a bad cholesterol reading I did a little of both sets of things, upping the good and lowering the bad. I did a basically vegan summer but determined to make the food that I ate as TASTY as possible, and I took about a day off a week since I wasn't trying to be a vegan for any other reason.

So this meant a lot of olive oil (paired with garlic) Niacin supplements (take on a FULL stomach) a good deal of fiber (twig cereal for breakfast with soy milk) apples and carrots for snacks, tasty vegan spreads (I don't know what it's called but it's at the coop and it's amazing) and a lot of stuff like hummus and tahini and middle eastern food generally where spices and nuts substituted for a lot of the savoriness that I'd been getting from animal stuff.

This was mostly just to see if there was anything I could do on a dietary basis since some people are just stuck with what they have and nothing works. I was shocked at how quickly my ratio got to something approaching normal. Within abotu two months of doing this -- and the normal amount of exercise -- I was well within normal ranges again. I went back to eating more like i used to, but kept it in mind when I was making my food choices from there on out "wow, this is something totally under my control"
posted by jessamyn at 4:25 PM on September 14, 2007

Yuh, the doctor told me:

quit smoking (had already told him I don't)
less red meat
green vegetables
posted by yerfatma at 4:47 PM on September 14, 2007

Best answer: Fiber definitely helps. I'm eating dried bartlett pears right now and just noticed that 4 paper thin slices have 41% of the daily recommended amount of fiber. Eat your prunes and apricots, too. Use olive oil and canola oil for all frying, sauteeing, and salad dressings. There's a butter substitute that available at every grocery store that improves good cholesterol while reducing bad. Eat oatmeal. Use whole wheat flower when you bake, as grains help reduce cholesterol. All the little things really add up quickly, just as they do when your bad cholesterol goes up. Exercising helped me a LOT. I think that was what lowered my cholesterol the most. 30 mins on an elliptical machine or swimming 5 days/week + light weight training.
posted by HotPatatta at 5:02 PM on September 14, 2007

If you eat a lot of peanut butter, switch to Smucker's Natural Peanut Butter (or something like it). It's very high in all the 'right' fats. Believe it or not, this alone can cause a big difference in test results for people who eat a lot of PB&J. Strange, but true.


Less red meat

Whole wheat bread, pasta, etc.

Oatmeal at night for a snack

I have also been taking fish oil for those Omega-3 fatty acids

I brought mine wayyy down with all of the above.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 6:09 PM on September 14, 2007

Along with the other things mentioned, moderate alcohol consumption has also been linked to increased HDL levels in some studies.

Also, I'm not sure if it applies in your case, but my GP has said that actively losing weight can temporarily lower HDL levels, so a low number on the test may be a good thing in context. Here's a slide showing the effect (I felt the need to check references on that one).
posted by backupjesus at 6:29 PM on September 14, 2007

High dose niacin will raise it 15-35%. Pre-treat with aspirin to prevent flushing.

This is not medical advice.
posted by gramcracker at 6:39 PM on September 14, 2007

Salmon (or good quality salmon pills so you don't get fish burps) and olive oil brought mine up pretty high (70). Oatmeal and fiber is good for lowering your LDL.
posted by idiotfactory at 6:51 PM on September 14, 2007

Seconding oats. Oatmeal, and dry oat cereals (granola, oats 'n' more, oatey oh's). I also add it to most of my baking - almost every cookie is improved by some oats. I use the old-fashioned kind, not the quick oats.
posted by joannemerriam at 7:24 PM on September 14, 2007

My strategy at the moment is niacin et. al. (makes my LDL super-low), and all the saturated fat I want (very good at raising LDL and HDL, but my LDL is being kept in check, see?)

Unknown if this is actually working until next blood test. ;)
posted by trevyn at 8:24 PM on September 14, 2007

Sure, try all of the above, people are certainly different and you have to try stuff to see what works for you. It's entirely possible that one of the above prescriptions will help you.

I would just say, don't get too uptight about it. I know many people now who really want to believe that some particular diet can save them from anything. But frankly, I see reality as way more deterministic. My father was sure that it was his high blood pressure and cholesterol that would get him. He was very disciplined, denied himself the foods he enjoyed and did strenuous exercise everyday. Unfortunately he died at 60 of a sudden and vigorous cancer.

On the other hand, I am naturally thin, have a blood pressure of 90/60, and an HDL of 100. I love whiskey, cheese, chocolate and bread. I don't eat many fruits or vegetables. Omega 3 oils increase my premenstrual pain so I don't take them. B vitamins, especially niacin give me a rash. I have recently started some exercise (at 38) mostly because I don't like the look of skinny, flabby muscles. With all of that, I may drop dead of cancer too. Who knows.

Bottom line: try what appeals to you and find a daily routine that you don't mind sticking with. There are no guarantees, and only your own experience and results matter.
posted by rintj at 8:49 PM on September 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

fish, oats, pulses (lentils, beans, chickpeas, etc.) and nuts (in very small quantities -- pecans, walnuts, and almonds are good; peanuts, cashews, macadamias and brazil nuts are bad)
posted by prettypretty at 10:54 PM on September 14, 2007

Avoid trans-fats completely.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:39 AM on September 15, 2007

High dose niacin will raise it 15-35%.

If I'm reading the literature correctly (disclaimer: author has eighth-grade biology education), niacin improves one's lipid profile by limiting lipolysis of adipose tissue. By keeping the body from burning fat, there's less nasty stuff to be absorbed by the HDL which leads to higher HDL levels. While this may be a good thing for people with metabolic issues (e.g., here), it seems counterproductive for a person trying to improve her body composition through diet and/or exercise.

I'm not trying to make an argument against niacin, but I would definitely discuss it with my doctor before starting any supplements.
posted by backupjesus at 5:19 AM on September 15, 2007

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