Lifestyle measures are crucial to increasing the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, also known as the “good” cholesterol, said a top neurologist on Tuesday. 

Taking to social media platform X, Sudhir Kumar, from Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, Hyderabad explained that low HDL cholesterol levels can increase the “risk of heart attack and stroke”.

On the other hand, higher levels of good cholesterol can also protect against the “risk of heart attacks, stroke, and premature death”.

To increase the HDL-C levels, “lifestyle measures are key”, said the doctor sharing some tips.

Sudhir said that a good sleep of seven hours is essential for high HDL-C levels.

“HDL-C levels sharply reduced in people sleeping for four hours or less,” he said.

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He stated the need for aerobic exercises, such as running, brisk walking, cycling, or swimming, for which one should “aim for 4-5 sessions per week”; and three sessions per week of resistance (strength) training.

“Combination of aerobic exercises and strength training has more beneficial effects on HDL-C levels than either of them alone,” the doctor said.

Further, Sudhir stressed the need to quit smoking as “HDL-C levels decrease with smoking, and increase after the cessation of smoking (among smokers)”.

The neurologist also called for maintaining adequate hydration as “chronic under-hydration and habitual low water intake are associated with higher cardiometabolic risks, including low HDL-C levels”.

Regarding dietary approaches, the doctor recommended the consumption of olive oil, avocado, nuts (a handful), and seeds like chia seeds; a low carbohydrate diet; choosing purple produce (rich in anthocyanins).

“Several fruits and vegetables are very high in anthocyanins, such as eggplant, red cabbage, blueberries, blackberries, and black raspberries. Eat fatty fish often (salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines) to boost HDL levels,” Sudhir said.

He also advised black coffee (5 cups or more/day) without additives, as “it is associated with higher HDL-C levels”. He noted that green tea consumption is not associated with HDL-C levels.

Further, the doctor advised to “lose weight (if obese or overweight)” and to manage stress via “meditation, relaxation, taking periodic vacations, engaging in hobbies, etc”.

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