Knoxville (WVLT) - Now for the good, the bad and the ugly truth about cholesterol.
Research has brought more attention recently to what's commonly referred to as good cholesterol.
Medical Reporter Jessa Goddard has more on why you should want more of it, and how to get it.
Although LDL, or "bad," cholesterol has gotten most of the attention from researchers, there's growing evidence HDL plays an important role.
And it's the one you want more of, because this "good" cholesterol helps lower your risk of heart disease.
Good cholesterol usually makes up about 20 to 30 percent of your total blood cholesterol.
And evidence suggests it helps protect against the accumulation of plaque in your arteries.
"It's diet, lifestyle and genetics. Certainly, somebody's family history is important because cholesterol is metabolized by your liver and that can be genetic," But Internist Febe Wallace says what many people don't know is some diet and lifestyle changes may help to increase good cholesterol levels.
"Diet is very key. Diets high in fruits and vegetables and lower in red meats and certainly lower in saturated fats," says Dr. Wallace.
Beginning with orange juice, a recent study finds drinking three cups a day increases good cholesterol levels by 21 percent.
Niacin, otherwise known as B-3, you'll find it in meat like chicken and fish.
Glycemic load, that's a ranking of how much a serving of food raises your blood sugar.
Whole grains, vegetables, fruits and fat free and low fat dairy products are on the lower end of the scale.
Replacing saturated fats with monounsaturated fats can not only increase levels of good cholesterol, but help reduce levels of bad cholesterol.
And give it time, a recent analysis of studies on soy found it takes at least three months to see improvements.
Alcohol, in moderation.
Aerobic exercise, at least 30 minutes, most days of the week.
And losing weight.
Doctor Wallace says make each change one at a time, and give them time to make an impact on your good cholesterol. "Anything you do to adjust your cholesterol does take time. You don't make changes and check your cholesterol two weeks later."
Some researchers believe boosting good cholesterol is the next frontier in heart disease prevention.
And if the new drugs designed to increase good cholesterol levels prove effective, they could potentially reduce the number of heart attacks and strokes by 80 to 90 percent.