How to Boost Your 'Good' Cholesterol

Medically Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on March 16, 2022
2 min read

HDL cholesterol is the kind of cholesterol you want more of.

It's called the "good" cholesterol because it helps protect you from getting heart disease.

HDL cholesterol brings cholesterol to your liver, which sends it out of your body. So you want as much HDL as possible.

You can get a blood test to check your cholesterol level. If you're a man and your HDL level is below 40, or a woman with an HDL level lower than 50, you're more likely to get heart disease. Having an HDL level of at least 60 may help protect you from getting heart disease.

Of course, other things -- like not smoking, being active, eating a healthy diet, and staying at a healthy weight -- also matter for your heart's health. Many of those things also affect your HDL level.

Some diet and lifestyle changes help boost HDL cholesterol levels:

  1. Get active. Physical activity can boost your HDL level. Get at least 30 minutes a day of moderate activity, most days of the week.
  2. Lose extra weight. If you're overweight, losing extra pounds can help raise your HDL levels, as well as cut your LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels.
  3. Choose better fats. The healthier choices are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. You’ll find these in plants, nuts, and fish like salmon or tuna. And, like everything you eat, keep your portion sizes small. Fats pack a lot of calories in small amounts.
  4. Alcohol in moderation. Drinking moderate amounts of alcohol is linked to higher HDL levels. If you don't drink now, check with your doctor before you start, since alcohol has some risks not related to cholesterol.
  5. Stop smoking. Kicking the cigarette habit can raise your HDL level.