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The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

November 16, 2011

Last week I got my numbers done, which included cholesterol measurements, and although I did not get all my cholesterol details, my interest was piqued to learn more what these measurements actually mean.

Cholesterol is a soft, fat-like,waxy substance which serves as a building block for key hormones in your body. High levels of cholesterol in the blood can damage the arteries and are often linked to heart diseases, so you want your cholesterol levels to be below 200 mg/dL. Anything over >240 is considered high. There is a good article I found from Oklahoma Heart Hospital website on the factors affecting Cholesterol levels. Basically it comes down to the usual suspects:

image

Side note: I’ve never actually seen the Usual Suspects movie to the end. I’ve seen different parts of it numerous times, but every time I sit down to watch I end up falling asleep.

Like everything else in life, cholesterol has a good and a bad side to it.

HDL (stands for high-density lipoprotein) is the good guy who cruises around your body gathering any bad leftover cholesterol around and bringing it to the liver to be broken down. An HDL level above 50 for men and above 60 for women is considered heart-protective. Anything below 40 for men and below 50 for women is a high risk for heart disease.

LDL (stands for Low Density Lipoprotein) is the bad guy that can’t help himself. LDL is an essential fat providing support to the cell membranes, but as with any fat, if there is too much of it, it can accumulate, and LDL can lead to the buildup in the artery walls, called plaques. These plaques continue to grow, eventually blocking the artery. These plagues might suddenly rapture causing a heart attack. Therefore, higher levels of LDL increase the risk of heart attack. You want your LDLs to be less than 100 ideally and definitely below 160.

Triglycerides are the main fat in the body so when you are checking your behind a few times in the mirror or pinching the extra flab hanging over your pants, that’s triglycerides hiding under the skin. After you consume your Big Mac, some of those giant fat molecules get broken down and used by your body right away. They get converted into triglycerides and transported to the liver where they are packaged inside a protein and delivered via blood stream where they are needed. Excess triglycerides that don’t get used up are absorbed by fat cells to be used for later (or accumulate and jiggle for decades to come).

Now I kind of wish I had fasted to get my triglycerides measured. Normal levels are less than 150 mg/dL, anything over 200 is high.

How to improve your cholesterol:

1. Exercise and lose some weight. As with any heart disease prevention, a bit of exercise, just 20-30 minutes a day, can make a huge improvement upon your cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Research has shown that losing just 10 pounds can reduce LDL cholesterol by 5 to 8 percent.

2. Diet: Avoiding trans fats (from yucky processed foods like chips, fried foods), limiting saturated fats (from animal-based foods like meats, butter, whole-milk, cheese) and watching cholesterol-rich foods (shellfish, liver, organ meets, egg yolks). Instead, increase your intake of fiber and omega-3 (walnuts, olive oil, avocado, salmon and tuna, Omega-3 fortified eggs, Brussels sprouts)

Thank you Wikipedia & webmd for this easily accessible and easily comprehendible information.

After learning a whole lot more about this cholesterol thing that I keep hearing about in Cheerios commercials, Eric and I are committed to staying healthy and keeping the bad guys in check with plenty of good cholesterol patrolling the blood streams. Every morning we sit side by side at our kitchen counter enjoying breakfast of pumpkin oats topped with walnuts, or Omega-3 fortified eggs with whole wheat toast. We take a fish oil supplement to give the good guys backup. I make salmon at least once a week and top off my salads with avocado. Yesterday we dusted off the stationary bike and hooked up Hulu to our spare TV for Eric to use while I am in the yoga studio. Let the LDL shrivel and die while HDLs multiply!

[Jane Asks]: What are you doing to keep your cholesterol levels in check?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. November 26, 2011 9:40 pm

    Hi there, just wanted to tell you, I liked this post. It was inspiring. Keep on posting!

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