Raise HDL Cholesterol Levels With Exercise

Several studies, including the present, demonstrate that exercise raises HDL cholesterol levels. Some researchers suggest that the way to avoid a decline in HDL cholesterol levels that occurs with dieting is to combine diet with exercise.

It has been shown that those who decrease their fat intake while dieting, but maintain an active exercise program, note an increase in HDL cholesterol levels.

(Arteriosclerosis 1988, 8:737-741, Arch Intern Med 1995, 155:415-420).

Using the above example, one can easily realize the benefits of reducing cholesterol through dieting while HDL cholesterol levels are maintained. The result is that those who exercise regularly have a more favourable lipid profile (cholesterol, triglyceride etc) than those who do not exercise.

This may also lead to a reduction in the risk for developing atherosclerosis.

It is widely accepted that exercise affects cholesterol and other lipids (fats) in a positive way, by regulating the metabolism of all lipids (fats) in the blood.

Another major impact of exercise on lipids (fats) is that it lowers triglyceride levels.

How much exercise is required to raise HDL cholesterol levels and improve the overall lipid (fats) profile?

Our study (The ATTICA study) demonstrated that even medium exercise is adequate to raise HDL cholesterol levels in women.

The ATTICA study is a health and nutrition survey, which is being carried out in the province of Attica (during 2001–2002), where Athens is a major metropolis.

Raise HDL cholesterol levels with exercise

Women at medium and high physical activity levels had 6% and 9% higher HDL cholesterol levels, respectively, as compared to those with a sedentary lifestyle.

It is notable that the previous associations were independent of the effects of body mass index, smoking habits and age of the participants.

The Pawtucket Heart Study reported that physical activity was significantly associated with lower blood pressure as well as body mass index and higher HDL cholesterol levels. (Med Sci Sports Exerc 1955, 27:340-346).

Among 3000 adult Japanese men frequency of physical activity was independently and positively related to HDL cholesterol levels. (Circulation 1998, 97:661-665).

Also, a pooled analysis among three European groups of people consisting of a total of 402 elderly men demonstrated a significant relation of physical activity with HDL cholesterol. (Am J Epidemiol 1996, 143:553-561).

The same findings were observed in several studies that included only women. (N Engl J Med 1996, 334:1298-303, Am J Epidemiol 1997, 146:322-328, N Engl J Med 1998, 339:12-20).

Low levels of HDL cholesterol and high levels of LDL cholesterol have been identified as coronary risk factors (coronary thrombosis or heart attack).

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Skoumas J, Pitsavos C et al. Physical activity, high density lipoprotein cholesterol and other lipids levels, in men and women from the ATTICA study. © 2003 Skoumas et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0).

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  1. hi,

    HDL cholesterol, or “good” cholesterol, appears to scour the walls of blood vessels, cleaning out excess cholesterol. It then carries that excess cholesterol — which otherwise might have been used to make the “plaques” that cause coronary artery disease — back to the liver for processing. So when we measure a person’s HDL cholesterol level, we seem to be measuring how vigorously his or her blood vessels are being “scrubbed” free of cholesterol.

    HDL levels below 40 mg/dL result in an increased risk of coronary atery disease, even in people whose total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels are normal. HDL levels between 40 and 60 mg/dL are considered “normal.” However, HDL levels greater than 60 mg/dL may actually protect people from heart disease. Indeed, for several years, doctors have known that when it comes to HDL levels, the higher the better.

    Thank you

  2. hi

    High-density lipoproteins. These lipoproteins are often referred to as HDL, or “good,” cholesterol. They act as cholesterol scavengers, picking up excess cholesterol in your blood and taking it back to your liver for disposal. The higher your HDL level, the less “bad” cholesterol you’ll have in your blood. In addition, HDL may have other protective effects on your heart and blood vessels, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-clotting effects.

    Low-density lipoproteins. These lipoproteins carry cholesterol throughout your body, delivering it to different organs and tissues. But if your body has more cholesterol than it needs, the excess keeps circulating in your blood. Over time, circulating LDL cholesterol reduces in size and undergoes chemical changes (becomes oxidized). These smaller, denser particles more easily enter the blood vessel wall and start to build up under the vessel lining. Deposits of LDL cholesterol particles are called plaques, and they can lead to inflammation, bleeding into the area, and calcification. Eventually, plaques can start to crowd the space within the blood vessel and obstruct blood flow, causing coronary artery disease. This is why LDL cholesterol is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol.

    thank you

  3. hi,

    High density lipoprotein (or HDL for short) is also known as “good cholesterol.” It picks up extra cholesterol in the blood and returns it to the liver. Low density lipoprotein (or LDL) is also known as “bad cholesterol.” It is the main transporter of cholesterol in the body. But too much LDL over many years can result in atherosclerosis (the narrowing and hardening of arteries) and lead to heart disease or a heart attack.

    The ratio of HDL/LDL looks at the ratio of good cholesterol (HDL) to bad cholesterol (LDL). The ratio is determined by dividing the LDL cholesterol into the HDL cholesterol. For example, if a person has an HDL cholesterol of 50 mg/dL and an LDL cholesterol of 150 mg/dL, the HDL/LDL ratio would be 0.33. The goal is to keep the ratio above 0.3, with the ideal HDL/LDL ratio being above 0.4.


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