6 Lifestyle Habits to Boost Good Cholesterol

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Get your cholesterol under control. When that's the advice your doctor recommends after reviewing your lab results, you're probably wondering what happens next.

Your doctor may prescribe statin drugs to lower bad cholesterol. Too much bad cholesterol in your blood, when HDL levels are low, can lead to fatty deposits linked to plaque build-up on artery walls, heart attacks, and strokes.

Not good. It's why statins are often a first line of defense to improve cholesterol levels. But medication isn't the only way to control bad cholesterol and boost good cholesterol.

In fact, a number of lifestyle habits can help you improve HDL cholesterol levels. Here are some things you can do:

1. Be more active.

Make it a habit to walk, jog, or run about an hour a day, and you'll burn calories and fat. One recent study found that 50 to 60 minutes of daily exercise helped people lose weight, and increase good cholesterol levels. If you can't exercise that much at once, break it up into smaller sessions. Or start with 10 to 20 minutes, and gradually increase the amount of time per session.

2. Don't smoke, or quit if you do.

Smoking puts you at risk for lung disease, and a long list of other health problems. It also limits the amount of HDL cholesterol your body can store. Research shows HDL levels can rise by as much as 30 percent after three weeks of being tobacco-free.

3. Eat more nuts.

Just a small handful a day is enough to raise good cholesterol levels by up to 16 percent. That's what researchers found in a 12-week study on almonds and HDL cholesterol. Just don't eat more than that. Nuts are high in calories and fat.

4. Limit alcohol

Limit alcohol to no more than one drink per day for women (zero if pregnant), and two drinks per day for men. Research shows moderate amounts of alcohol can support HDL levels, but too much can be harmful.

5. Avoid or limit processed foods.

If you're trying to improve your diet, it's a no brainer. Processed foods tend to be high in sodium and empty calories. But they're also high in trans fats and saturated fats that can have a negative impact on good cholesterol.

6. Eat more fiber.

If you want to change your cholesterol levels by changing your diet, eat more fiber-rich foods like beans, berries, and whole grains. Fiber helps control cholesterol by preventing it from being absorbed in the bloodstream.

You'll find fiber-rich meals on our Low-Sodium menu like Chicken Cheese Enchilada with Tomatillo Sauce, Rice & Pinto Beans, Spinach Mushroom Lasagna with Garlic Green Beans, Many Bean Soup, and other entrees and complete meals.