Thanks to powerful cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, driving down low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad" cholesterol, has been the primary approach to improving cholesterol levels. But there's more to the story of cholesterol and cardiovascular risk than LDL alone. Another key player is high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the "good" cholesterol. Higher levels of HDL are associated with lower cardiovascular risk. The good news about this good cholesterol is that simple lifestyle changes can help boost HDL, reports the June 2008 issue of Harvard Women's Health Watch.
HDL removes LDL from artery walls and ferries it to the liver for processing or removal. HDL also fights potentially dangerous inflammation and clot formation. According to a recent review of research on HDL, there's some evidence that increasing HDL can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke—even without changes in LDL.
Harvard Women's Health Watch suggests several things people can do to nudge up HDL levels. Most of these strategies also improve health in other ways.
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