By Al Sears, MD

You probably know that Enron CEO Ken Lay's life was cut short by a heart attack. His doctors knew he had heart disease. In fact, he had suffered several heart attacks before the one that killed him ... and he'd been taking statin drugs to lower his cholesterol for years. (Kay’s Note:  I imagine stress had a little something to do with Ken’s death, too.)

Statin drugs work by blocking the body's production of cholesterol. This lowers total cholesterol - not just "bad" LDL cholesterol but also "good" HDL cholesterol. And to avoid developing heart disease - even to reverse damage that's already been done - HDL is key.

HDL can reduce your risk of heart disease regardless of your LDL levels. The Framingham study (the most reliable and unbiased source of data for heart disease risk) shows that if your HDL is high enough, your LDL will have no negative impact on your heart health. In fact, if your HDL is above 85, you are at no greater risk of heart disease if your total cholesterol is 350 than if it's 150.

Here are four natural ways to increase your HDL:

1. Exercise in intervals - at progressively higher intensity as you get used to it - for 20 minutes every other day.

2. Eliminate trans-fats from your diet. Cut out breaded/fried foods, commercially baked crackers and cookies, and anything containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable or soybean oil.

3. Increase your omega-3 fatty acids by adding fish oils, avocados, nuts, olives, and eggs to your diet.

4. Add fresh garlic to your meals as often as possible.

[Ed. Note: For more advice on boosting your HDL and reversing heart disease, get a copy of Dr. Sears' book, The Doctor's Heart Cure.]