Having lots of “good” artery-clearing HDL cholesterol cuts your risk of heart disease by 67 percent, Harvard researchers say. And keeping your HDLs high is especially important now, when chilly weather narrows arteries and makes blood stickier. Thankfully, these easy ways to boost HDLs can strengthen your heart health and keep arteries clear.
Unwinding with a TV show each night could lead to an 18 percent uptick in your blood levels of “good” HDL, suggests a study in the Journal of Lipid Research. Explains study co-author Erik Stroes, M.D., your adrenal glands use HDLs to make stress hormones, so when stress levels drop, more HDLs stay in your bloodstream. Bonus: Utah State University researchers say daily TLC heightens your liver’s control of “bad” LDLs, cutting your risk of clogged arteries by 50 percent.
Munching on 2 ⁄3 cup of pistachios daily can boost HDLs by 11 percent, plus cut between-meal hunger pangs by 67 percent. Pistachios are packed with monounsaturated fats — nutrients that switch on HDL-producing genes in your liver.
Sip a Hot Toddy
Having one daily serving of alcohol — whether a glass of wine or beer or a soul-warming hot toddy — will prod your liver to increase its HDL production by as much as 11 percent, suggests research in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Prefer an alcohol-free option? Drinking a large mug of dark hot cocoa daily will give you the same healthy HDL boost.
Make a Few Trips
Too cold for your daily walk? Carrying your laundry upstairs in a few extra trips is just as effective at raising HDLs and benefiting your heart health, suggests research in the journal Sports Medicine. Explains study co-author Steven Mann, Ph.D., the hormones your body produces to strengthen leg muscles also prompt your liver to keep its HDL output high.
Try this Fruit Extract
Taking 1,000 mg. of bergamot daily could boost your HDL level by 40 percent, say Italian studies. That’s because this citrus fruit extract contains compounds that help the liver convert dietary fats into HDLs. Check with your doctor before supplementing.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.