Heart disease is running rampant in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the US, accounting for one in every five deaths. As of 2020, nearly 700,000 Americans died from some form of heart disease.
High cholesterol can significantly raise your risk of developing heart disease and having a heart attack or stroke.
At Midwest Regional Health Services, our team of primary care doctors and specialists offers treatment options for our patients with hypertension and high cholesterol at our office in Omaha, Nebraska.
The difference between good and bad cholesterol
Cholesterol is a type of fat that helps the body manufacture things like healthy cell membranes, certain hormones, and vitamin D, among others.
The liver produces the cholesterol the body needs to function properly, but we also get cholesterol from food. Too much cholesterol can be harmful, especially when it’s in the form of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), which is commonly referred to as "bad cholesterol."
When there’s too much LDL-C in your blood, it can accumulate on the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the heart and brain. Over time, this can lead to the formation of fatty deposits known as plaque, which can narrow and harden the arteries (atherosclerosis).
Atherosclerosis can reduce blood flow to the heart, causing chest pain or angina.
When the blood flow is completely blocked, you can have a heart attack. When the blood flow to the brain is blocked, it can cause a stroke.
HDL cholesterol, on the other hand, commonly referred to as the "good" cholesterol, helps to flush out excess LDL cholesterol from the blood vessels.
Higher HDL levels can lower the risk of heart disease.
How to raise your HDL cholesterol
Heart disease includes coronary artery disease, heart failure, and arrhythmias.
Some common risk factors for heart disease are:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- High cholesterol
- Family history of heart disease
Prevention and early detection are crucial to lowering heart disease risk. Eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, not smoking, and managing any underlying health problems can help lower your risk of developing heart disease in the future.
Regular check-ups with a primary care doctor can also help detect heart disease early, when it’s usually most treatable.
Here are some natural ways to raise your HDL cholesterol levels:
Regular physical activity can help raise your HDL cholesterol levels.
Eat healthy fats
Add healthy fats like olive oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds to your diet. Eating healthy fats can help to increase HDL cholesterol levels.
Increase fiber intake
Eating foods high in soluble fiber such as oatmeal, beans, lentils, and fruits can help to increase HDL cholesterol levels.
Smoking lowers HDL cholesterol levels. Quitting smoking can help to increase your HDL cholesterol levels and improve your overall health.
Drink alcohol in moderation
Moderate alcohol consumption has been associated with increased HDL cholesterol levels. That said, excessive alcohol consumption can also have negative effects on your health and increase your risk of other health problems, like cancer and liver disease.
Losing weight can help to increase HDL cholesterol levels. If you’re overweight or obese, losing as little as 5% of your body weight can make a difference.
Keep in mind that genetics also plays a role in HDL cholesterol levels, and some people may have difficulty raising their HDL levels through lifestyle changes alone.
If you’re concerned about your HDL cholesterol levels and heart disease risk, we can help.
For more information about high cholesterol and heart disease risk and treatment, contact Midwest Regional Health Services today to schedule an appointment with one of our primary care specialists.