High cholesterol poses an increased risk of developing heart disease. The risk lies in its effects on the cardiovascular system. High cholesterol causes plaque formation in the arteries. This narrowing increases blood pressure and heightens the risk of clots.
HDL helps control total cholesterol by aiding the transport of it to the liver for elimination. A desirable level is 50-59 mg/dL from a total cholesterol blood test. A figure of 60 mg/dL and above is even better.
Control with Medications
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that about 48 million Americans have uncontrolled cholesterol. One way it can be controlled is through the use of statin drugs. These medications act primarily on LDL or bad cholesterol, however, they will also increase HDL to provide a more natural way for the body to control cholesterol.
These medications are not without risks and side effects. A common side effect is muscle pain and muscle weakness which can be severe in some individuals. The drugs also increase the risk for liver damage.
One promising treatment option for raising HDL levels is niacin. Niacin is an important player in the body's ability to produce energy. It also supports digestion and nervous system function. It also has shown promise for raising HDL.
A 2004 study by the Hôpital de la Pitié in France linked low HDL levels to a heightened risk of coronary heart disease. Researchers further recommended a minimum HDL level of 40 mg/dL for patients with heart disease or at risk of developing it. The study identified niacin or nicotinic acid as the most effective ways of accomplishing this goal.
Another supplement which may increase HDL is fish oil. A 2010 study by Copenhagen University in Denmark found that supplementation increased HDL by 5 percent in obese adolescent boys after 16 weeks. Fish oil is unique in that it is one of the few dietary supplements which is recognized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as an effective supplement for reducing coronary heart disease.
If you want to raise your HDL without taking drugs or a supplement, exercise may offer a non-pharmaceutical approach to cholesterol control. A 2011 study by the Saga University in Japan found that aerobic exercise significantly lowered cholesterol and increased HDL after 12 weeks of regular workouts. If you have concerns about medication side effects, exercise may be your answer to increasing HDL.
While you can't control all risk factors, you can help improve your cholesterol by HDL control. Research has opened several avenues for better cholesterol management. With your cholesterol under control, you can reduce your chances of developing heart disease.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: High Blood Pressure and Cholesterol cdc.gov
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Leading Causes of Death cdc.gov
M. Chapman, et al. Raising high-density lipoprotein cholesterol with reduction of cardiovascular risk: the role of nicotinic acid–a position paper developed by the European Consensus Panel on HDL-C. Current Medical Research and Opinion, August 2004; 20(8):1253-1268.
W. Guo, et al. Effects of aerobic exercise on lipid profiles and high molecular weight adiponectin in Japanese workers. Internal Medicine, March 2011; 50(5):389-95.
M. Pedersen, et al. Effects of fish oil supplementation on markers of the metabolic syndrome. Journal of Pediatrics, September 2010; 157(3):395-400.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration: FDA Announces Qualified Health Claims for Omega-3 Fatty Acids fda.gov
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