High-density lipoprotein , also known as HDL or "good" cholesterol, levels are increased by not smoking, having a lower body weight, being physically active, eating a healthier diet and refraining from excessive alcohol consumption. According to Mayo Clinic, medications that may help increase HDL cholesterol levels include niacin, fibrates and statins, which are usually prescribed to help lower low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, cholesterol levels.
HDL helps lessen the risk of heart disease by moving cholesterol from the arteries to the liver, where it can be effectively removed from the body, according to WebMD. Higher HDL levels mean more cholesterol being removed from the body. Risk of heart disease begins to decrease with HDL levels that are at least 40 milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood for men and at least 50 milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood for women. Ideal levels of HDL are at least 60 milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood for both men and women, according to Mayo Clinic.
People who are aiming for a higher HDL level should include foods such as oatmeal, whole-wheat products, walnuts, almonds, margarine, foods that contain beta-sitosterol and beta-sitostanol, fatty fish, flax seeds and omega-3 supplements in their diet. Aerobic exercise can increase HDL levels by 5 percent, and for every 6 pounds of body weight lost, HDL can increase by 1 milligram of cholesterol per deciliter of blood, according to Mayo Clinic.