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Heart Health Month – Cholesterol 101

Earlier this month, I gave you a post on 7 resolutions to adopt in order to keep your heart healthy.  Throughout the next month, I will give you a deeper look at each of these steps, so that you can take the necessary steps to keeping your heart in tip top shape.

 

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a normal part of your system; you actually need a certain amount to produce cell membranes and other hormones, as well as other bodily functions.  However, if you have too much cholesterol in your bloodstream – you put yourself at risk for heart attack and stroke. 

Cholesterol comes from your body as well as the food you eat.  There is the HDL and LDL, which are the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterols respectively, as well as triglycerides which make up your total cholesterol.  You can determine these numbers through a blood lipid profile test.

 

LDL “Bad” Cholesterol – This type of cholesterol, otherwise known as LDL (low-density lipoprotein), is what can slowly build up on the artery walls and form plaque.  Plaque on the artery walls causes the arteries to become narrow and inflexible, which can cause atherosclerosis.  Once your arteries have started this transition, it is easy for blood to clog and cause a heart attack or stroke. 

LDL Cholesterol is elevated by diets high in saturated and trans fats. 

 

HDL “Good” Cholesterol – HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, is known as the good cholesterol because having higher levels of HDL seems to protect you from a heart attack.  According the American Heart Association, HDL cholesterol carries away the LDL from the body while also helping clear the artery walls of plaque.  Here at H3, we like to look at the LDL to HDL Ratio.

Your lifestyle has the single greatest impact on your HDL cholesterol. Even small changes to your daily habits can help you meet your HDL target.

 

Triglycerides – Triglycerides are also produced in the body, but is a type of fat.  High triglycerides are caused by overweight/obesity, physical inactivity, cigarette smoking, excess alcohol consumption and a diet very high in carbohydrates (60 percent of total calories or more). People with high triglycerides often have a high total cholesterol level, including a high LDL (bad) level and a low HDL (good) level.

 

Why are these important?

High cholesterol is one of the major controllable risk factors for coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke.  It’s important for everyone to know their cholesterol level.  Although cholesterol is genetic, it can be managed through healthy lifestyle habits.  Also, any body type is susceptible to high cholesterol.

Here at H3, each Guest is given a blood lipid profile test prior to beginning the program.

 

Now that I know my numbers, how do I know if they are good or bad?

Total blood cholesterol is the most common measurement of blood cholesterol. A cholesterol level of 200 mg/dL or higher puts you in a high-risk category and is cause to take action. 

Here’s a chart like the one you would see here at H3.

 

Normal Risk Level

High Risk Level

Total Cholesterol

 

< 200

> 240

Triglycerides

 

< 150

200 +

HDL Cholesterol

 

>  40 for men

> 50 for women

< 40

LDL Cholesterol

 

< 100

< 70 (previous heart attack)

> 160

> 130 (CVD or Diabetes)

Total to HDL Ratio

 

< 4.5 for men

< 3.5 for women

 

LDL to HDL Ratio

 

< 3 for men

< 2.5 for women

 

 

This should give you a good guideline of where you should fall.  If you have any questions, please contact your physician.

 

What can I do to manage my cholesterol levels?

As mentioned above, there are steps you can take to manage your cholesterol levels through lifestyle choices.  It is recommended that you eat foods low in cholesterol and saturated fat and free of trans fat, maintain a healthy weight, and stay physically active.

We see great success every week with those who have lowered these numbers dramatically through changing their diet and exercise habits for just a week at a time.  This is a powerful testimony for living a healthy lifestyle and its immediate impact on your overall wellness.

 

 

Source: American Heart Association, www.americanheart.org

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