HDL Cholesterol

  1. Apples can cut cholesterol levels

    An apple a day might not always keep the doctor away. But two apples might do the trick -- especially for older women.

    In a new study, postmenopausal women who ate 2.6 ounces of dried apples a day -- the equivalent of two medium fresh apples -- saw dramatic improvements in cholesterol levels.

    At three months, their levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol fell by 16 percent and their total cholesterol dropped by 9 percent. At six months, those LDL levels fell by 24 percent, and total cholesterol by 13 percent.

    They also saw a 4 percent boost in HDL ("good") cholesterol. That may not sound very big, but raising HDL levels even a little bit is often a big challenge for many people.

    Those cholesterol changes alone are impressive enough for something as simple as apples, but those weren't the only benefits. The women who ate the dried apples also lost an average of 3.3 pounds, possibly a "side effect" of the pectin in the fruit, which is known to help make people feel full.

    A control group of women given a daily helping of prunes saw slight dips in cholesterol, but nothing like what was seen among those who ate the apples. They also dropped a couple of pounds.

    And while women in both groups saw drops in their levels of C-reactive protein -- an inflammation marker linked to everything from heart disease to brain disorders -- the women who got the prunes had bigger drops in this department.

    Looks like prunes are good for more than just regularity, and I see no reason not to enjoy both prunes and apples if you like them. Just keep it moderate, since the sugar and calories can add up fast if you eat too much fruit -- especially dried fruit.

    And when it comes to apples, don't just pick up anything on sale at the supermarket. Go organic, because conventional apples have some of the highest levels of pesticides of anything in the produce aisle.

  2. Green tea can lower blood pressure

    The 'green' way to lower BP

    The moment your blood pressure hits a certain level, your doc will sigh and pull out his prescription pad like he has no other choice.

    But there's always another choice.

    In fact, there are so many natural options for hypertension that there's no reason they shouldn't be tried before drugs -- and a new study adds one more safe alternative to the list: green tea.

    You already know about this stuff, I'm sure, and how people drink green tea to help with everything from cancer protection to weight loss. Now, researchers find it can trim BP levels, too, and do it so well that it might even be able to tame hypertension in borderline cases.

    Researchers in Poland gave 56 obese patients with hypertension either 379 mg a day of green tea extract or a placebo. Three months later, the ones who got the extract shaved nearly 5 points each off both their systolic ("top number") and diastolic ("bottom number") readings.

    Those on a placebo, on the other hand, saw drops of just 0.8 and 0.6 mmHg, respectively, or almost nothing at all.

    In addition, the green tea drinkers had lower levels of the inflammation marker C-reactive protein, improvements in LDL and HDL cholesterol levels, and even better blood sugar control.

    But if you're obese and battling high blood pressure, your first step shouldn't be to reach for a cup of green tea or a green tea extract -- it should be to lose the weight.

    In many cases, weight loss alone will bring your BP levels down to where they should be.

    As I mentioned earlier, green tea can help there too. Studies have shown that green tea can help boost the body's ability to burn off energy, which in turn could lead to weight loss.

    Just don't expect to sip some tea or take green tea extract and watch the pounds slip off by magic. You'll need to improve your eating habits, too -- and for that, I recommend the Mediterranean Diet.

    The Mediterranean Diet can also help normalize blood pressure if it's high or prevent high blood pressure in people who don't have it yet. It's also great for weight loss, and can help prevent any number of diseases.

    Green tea isn't from the Mediterranean, but feel free to drink some just the same.

  3. Diabetics should concentrate on a low-carb diet

    The best way for diabetics to get control of their blood sugar is to cut down on their carbs -- and the latest research confirms this approach.
  4. Soda scare: Sugary drinks linked to new heart risk

    Any time I use the words "soda" and "study" in the same sentence, it's never good news for soda. I can't recall a single study that shows soda benefits anything other than the bank accounts of the people who sell it. And the latest research is no exception.
  5. One more reason to drink beer

    In fact, you can get just about all the benefits of wine and then some from plain old beer -- and the latest research confirms that a cold brew is every bit as good for your heart as a glass of red.
  6. The part-time diet that really works

    Researchers put women on a low-carb diet up against women on a low-calorie diet -- but with a huge catch: The low-carb eaters would stick to the plan for just two days a week… and eat whatever they wanted the rest of the time.
  7. The next wave of cholesterol meds

    If you thought statin meds to lower LDL cholesterol were useless, you should see what they're cooking up next: drugs to raise your HDL levels.
  8. The natural way to beat inflammation

    Inflammation has gone from a condition you should worry about to a marketing buzzword used to sell everything from drugs to juice to cereal. Well, at least they got it half right: You should worry about inflammation, and do what you can to bring your own levels down.
  9. Cholesterol not linked to stroke risk

    A new study finds a huge flaw in one of the most basic reasons these drugs are prescribed: Researchers say they've found almost no connection between LDL levels and stroke risk.

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