Bummer alert: Aortic aneurysms, a dangerous swelling of the aorta, affect 1 to 2 percent of women and kill around 13,000 Americans each year, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. They can only be repaired surgically and often go undiagnosed, but a new study shows hope for a treatment: The research, published in the journal Atherosclerosis Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, indicates that higher levels of HDL, or Ã¢â‚¬Å“goodÃ¢â‚¬Â cholesterol, can help protect you from developing an aortic aneurysm.
Researchers from St. GeorgeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s University of London gave a peptide called Ang-II to mice to increase their blood pressure and try to induce an aneurysm. They then injected one group of mice with HDL and another with a placebo. Researchers discovered that they were unable to create new aneurysms in the mice that received the HDL injections, and these mice also showed a significant reduction in the size of their existing aneurysms. Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s good news for mice, but we do need to translate this,Ã¢â‚¬Â says lead study author Gillian Cockerill, PhD, group leader of the Vascular Biology Research Unit.
That said, existing research shows boosting your HDL is good for heart health and may help prevent coronary disease, says Maja Zaric, MD, interventional cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and a Women's Health advisor. Ã¢â‚¬Å“HDL is a type of cholesterol that actually cleans the blood vessels, as opposed to the LDL cholesterol (aka, bad cholesterol), which clogs them,Ã¢â‚¬Â she says.
Here, she shares a few strategies on how get more of the good stuff.
Work it out: Since regular exercise helps boost HDL production, Zaric recommends logging at least 30 minutes of any aerobic exercise three to four times a week.
Quit the cancer sticks: Whether youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re a regular smoker or a Ã¢â‚¬Å“just one puffÃ¢â‚¬Â kind of girl, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s time to ditch the bad habit. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Smoking even in small amounts can actually suppress the HDL release from the liver,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Zaric.
Drop some pounds: If your BMI is higher than 25, losing weight isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t just all-around good for youÃ¢â‚¬”it can also up your HDL levels. That said, people who are at a normal body weight shouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t try to drop pounds just to increase HDL production.
Fill up on good fats: Consumption of monounsaturated fats has been linked to higher HDL levels. Get your fill by incorporating more avocado, salmon, sardines, olive oil, and olives into your diet.
Consider a cholesterol booster: If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re generally healthy but have a low HDL count and a family history of heart disease, you might want to ask your doctor about OTC cholesterol-boosting medications, says Zaric. One thing to keep in mind: They can have the side effect of facial flushing or redness, which might last anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes.
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