Q: What should I do to raise my HDL cholesterol besides get more omega-3 fatty acids in my diet? -- Teresa, via e-mail
A: You may think we've gone off the deep end by suggesting raising your cholesterol to lower it, but the higher your good HDL is, the less trouble your lousy LDL cholesterol may be. It's extra important to increase your HDL if you're over 50. If you're a man over 60, underline that. Healthy HDL is your arterial housekeeper: It sweeps up bad LDL and puts it in the dumpster (your liver) for disposal. Here's how to raise your HDL:
Take a super omega-3. We recommend 900 mg daily of algae-based omega-3s, which are high in DHA, the best form of omega-3 fatty acids. Bonus: Studies suggest that good DHA fats also protect your brain and eyes, and enhance weight control. A fat that makes you thin, imagine that!
Ramp up your exercise. Do 30-45 minutes of brisk aerobics at least twice and preferably three times a week. The payoff: It will goose your HDL, sending it up 2.5 to 5 points. For every point higher you get it, you lower your heart disease risk by up to 3 percent.
Bring on the B vitamins. Niacin (B-3) improves HDL. Talk to your doc about it: High-dose niacin works, but can have side effects, including intense hot flushing and liver trouble. (You can reduce that flush with a baby aspirin and glass of water 1 hour beforehand; talk to your doc about this, too.) Taking 300 mg of pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5) a day also will boost HDL.
Toast yourself daily. Alcohol increases good cholesterol, and moderate drinking can lower your cardiovascular disease risk 25 percent to 40 percent. Healthy amounts: men, up to two drinks a day; women, up to one.
Avoid three key food felons: saturated fat, trans fats and sugar. People who eat lots of added sugar have higher triglycerides and lousy LDL. Saturated fat affects your body in ways that make it harder to get rid of LDL. So take the skin off poultry, swap full-fat or low-fat dairy foods for no-fat versions and shun red meat (palm and coconut oils, too). Check labels for trans fat, the stuff that gives processed food a longer shelf life but robs you of yours.
Q: I had my bikini line waxed for the first time a few weeks ago, and now I have red bumps down there. Would it be better if I shaved? -- Lisa, Texas
A: No way. Here's why men call ingrown hairs razor bumps: Shaving pulls on the hair, so some get clipped below the skin's surface. If trapped hair curls down into the skin, it causes inflammation -- red bumps that look like yours. Waxing pulls hair out from the roots, creating a similar problem, since the new hair may not find its way out. If you're prone to in-growns, either let the hair grow and simply trim it short, or have laser hair removal, which will reduce hair growth 10 percent to 25 percent with each treatment. The hairs making the bumps you have now should eventually pop through. (Gently using a loofah there will help.) But if the little bumps become infected, see your doc for a topical antibiotic and to have the hair released.
Q: I had gastric bypass surgery last March, and so far I've lost 60 pounds. But I'm concerned I'm not eating enough protein, fruits and vegetables. Any advice? -- Constance, Missouri
A: Congrats on the weight loss and on asking smart questions. Behind the dramatic "before and after" photos of people who've had gastric bypass are often less-pretty "before and after" nutritional shortages. When food bypasses the first part of your intestine, you usually don't absorb all its nutrients, leading to dietary shortfalls that until now were found only in the Third World. (By the way, this doesn't happen with lap-bands or sleeves.) Thiamine deficiency, for instance, is so common in bypass patients that it's known as bariatric beriberi.
Work with a dietitian to learn what to eat and in what order to eat certain things, like protein. You'll need to take chewable multivitamins and calcium for the rest of your life, and possibly other supplements, like B-12. Getting enough protein is critical to prevent muscle loss when you're rapidly shedding pounds. Try snacking on protein powerhouses like walnuts and protein shakes (one or two a day). Report any unusual symptoms to your doc. And get regular blood tests to make sure that you're a healthy thin person, not just thin.
The YOU Docs, Mike Roizen and Mehmet Oz, are authors of "YOU: Being Beautiful -- The Owner's Manual to Inner and Outer Beauty." To submit questions and find ways to grow younger and healthier, go to realage.com, the docs' online home.