Make your lifestyle count
HDL levels are typically lower in people who have metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions that include obesity, increased blood pressure and high blood sugar levels.
In addition to helping you lose weight, increased physical activity can lower your triglycerides while increasing your HDL levels. Benefits can be seen with as little as 60 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week.
In terms of diet, try to avoid trans fats, as they can increase LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol levels. Foods prepared with shortening, such as cakes and cookies, often contain trans fats, as do most fried foods and some margarines.
Moderate use of alcohol has been linked with higher levels of HDL cholesterol. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger. Too much alcohol can cause weight gain, and may increase your blood pressure and triglyceride levels.
Medications can boost or lower HDL
HDL levels are sometimes improved by drugs used to lower LDL and triglyceride levels — such as prescription niacin; fibrates such as gemfibrozil (Lopid); and certain statins, particularly simvastatin (Zocor) and rosuvastatin (Crestor).
But clinical trials for several drugs specifically designed to increase HDL levels were halted early, because they didn't reduce the risk of heart attacks.
Drugs containing testosterone and other anabolic steroids can artificially lower your HDL cholesterol levels. Avoiding these drugs may help increase your HDL numbers.
June 28, 2016
See more In-depth
- What is cholesterol? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hbc. Accessed June 1, 2016.
- Good vs. bad cholesterol. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/AboutCholesterol/Good-vs-Bad-Cholesterol_UCM_305561_Article.jsp#.V09AH9j2aic. Accessed June 1, 2016.
- Rosenson RS, et al. HDL-cholesterol: Clinical aspects of abnormal values. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 1, 2016.
- LDL and HDL: "Bad" and "good" cholesterol. Centers for Disease Control. http://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/ldl_hdl.htm. Accessed June 1, 2016.
- HDL cholesterol. Lab Tests Online. American Association for Clinical Chemistry. https://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/hdl/tab/sample. Accessed June 1, 2016.
- Ballantyne CM. Therapeutic targeting of high-density lipoprotein metabolism. In: Clinical Lipidology: A Companion to Braunwald's Heart Disease. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2015. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed June 2, 2016.
- Tangney CC, et al. Lipid lowering with diet or dietary supplements. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 2, 2016.
- Francisco Lopez-Jimenez (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 3, 2016.