The Indiana study was based on 7,000 people who were screened for risk factors such as heart disease, age, sex, race and weight. Researchers found that having low levels of good cholesterol (HDL) was the third highest risk factor for future heart attacks among the participants.
Previous heart disease and age were the two most common factors predicting heart attacks. HDL is believed to protect the arteries and heart by carrying bad cholesterol in the blood back to the liver, where it is eventually transported out of the body. Researchers said people who are trying to lower their total cholesterol levels through diet and exercise should be cautious not to lower good cholesterol in the process.
You can increase good cholesterol by following a diet rich in monounsaturated fats like olive oil, most nuts and avocados as well as fruits, vegetables and grains. To lower bad cholesterol, avoid saturated fats such as butter, stick margarine, lard and hydrogenated shortenings, and foods prepared with these ingredients. Reduce animal fats by choosing lean cuts of meat and trimming away any visible fat. Choose low-fat and fat-free dairy foods.
Doctors recommend you read Nutrition Facts labels to compare similar food items and choose foods with the lower (5 percent or less Daily Value) saturated fat content per serving.