How to Raise Your HDLs and Lower your Heart Disease Risk

April 13, 2015

High HDLs and Risk of Heart Disease 

 Reference:   Wilkins JAHA 2014 

 We hear all this stuff about LDLs and statins, but no one ever talks about HDLs and how protective they are.   They are protective.   Ostensibly their duty is to scour around and pick up extra fatty acids that they can bring back to the liver for processing.   Small, dense HDLs are just as problematic is small, dense LDLs. You want to have big, fluffy HDLs just like you want to have big, fluffy LDLs.   

Now, that’s the traditional medical interpretation of HDLs.   It markedly underestimates their role and their value. You want higher HDLs. It should be one of your health goals. What this study shows is an elegant demonstration of the inverse relationship between heart disease risk and HDLs.   Following 11,515 men and 12,925 women for 307,245 people years of follow-up, the researchers were able to show that HDLs inversely correlated with heart disease risk. The higher your HDLs, the less heart disease risk you have. The lower your HDL, the deeper you are in doo-doo. 

Look at the graphs in the article (it’s open access) and you will see the decrease in heart disease risk in both men and women as you increase your HDLs. Men keep decreasing risk up to about 90 HDLs, and women up to about 75.   That’s great! Eric Westman, of Duke University, and one of America’s leading weight-loss experts uses HDLs in his weight loss clinic.   

If someone’s HDLs are rising, they are losing weight and on track. We’ve known this phenomenon for years. But if you look over the studies in the literature, it has been masked and hard to see the pattern because most of the diets for weight loss are low fat. Eric Westman claims that when HDLs stop rising, he investigates precise dietary diaries and usually finds someone has started eating more carbohydrates, usually in the form of nuts.   The client thought nuts were basically all fat, but in fact have enough carbs to sabatoge both their weight loss and their HDLs rising.   

After a year of dieting on a low carb diet, Westman claims that many will achieve HDLs of 100 – thereby reaching a peak of cardiovascular risk reduction.   Hmmm. That’s the opposite of what the American Heart says. Ok, explain a simpler theory.   Here is mine. I believe that LDLs are simply transport tools in your body taking fats manufactured in your liver out to fat cells to be used in membranes.   HDLs are their remnant and essentially reflect unused cholesterol that isn't needed so it's being exported back out.   

In the world of modern analogies, I call LDLs full 18 wheelers taking manufactured inventory from the factory (your liver) to the warehouse (your fat cell).   HDLs are empty 18 wheelers, sitting in the parking lot waiting for the dispatcher to give them something to do.   Throughout all of human history, we had carbs only seasonally at the end of the growing season, when we gorged on them, put on weight and had a seasonal rise in our LDLs. The rest of the year, we ate fat and protein, lost weight and had our HDLs climb.   HDLs will climb when you are on high fat, low carb diet, or are losing weight or intermittently fasting.  They indicate healthy peroxisomes and satisfied intracellular membranes.   They will keep climbing as you lose weight and progressively decrease the biological demand for LDLs to transport fats.   

You want more HDLs and a lower Total Cholesterol/HDL ratio. The Quebec Study proves that. The Lower your TC/HDL ratio, the lower your risk for heart disease. 

 WWW. What will work for me?   Ok, I was intrigued by this data. I’ve spent my entire career trying to raise my own miserable HDLs of 28. My father had heart disease and was diabetic. With running 2 miles a day and taking 1000 mg of Niacin (until my face flushed bright red) – the two recommendations to raise your HDL from American Heart), I got my own HDLs all the way up to 32.   Whoop dee doo! Now, since January 1 I have averaged a 70% fat, under 15% carb diet. I have lost 25 pounds and my HDLS just got in. I hit 61 in just 3 months. My LDLs didn’t fall but my ratio is now under 3, for the first time EVER.   If this was just me, I would keep private. But I’ve demonstrated this same phenomenon on dozens of folks willing to stick with it and get measured twice. In fact, it has worked on everyone so far.   Must be something to it.   Your enemy is not fat, it’s extra carbs. If you have high LDLs, it simply means you have overwhelmed the ability of your body to burn and process them, so your liver is turning them into fat and your body is transporting that fat to your fat cells. (No ifs, ands or butts!).   

 Pop Quiz

  1. High HDLs should be one of my health goals.   T or F.                   Answer:    Yup
  1. The only way to reliably get high HDLs is to eat fat, stop eating carbs. T or F                    Answer:  Trick question.   It’s not the only way.   Getting yourself born into the right family helps. Good genes are useful. But diet can do it for those of us with lousy genes.
  1. I can change my lousy HDLS in three months more effectively than with a statin. T or F.    Answer:   Slam dunk true
  1. There is more money in statins than in effective weight loss and that has a huge effect on public policy. T or F                       Answer:  You guess
  1. Losing weight and eating differently is more effective than taking pills.                Answer:  Four to one.