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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

LDL, HDL... IDK... High Cholesterol?

LDL, HDL, IDK, WTH? Sounds like a bad text from your doctor? Well, those lovely acronyms and numbers your doctor is spitting at you, are your cholesterol numbers. They are very, very important in determining your risk of heart disease, do you know your numbers?
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance made in the liver and other cells.  It is also found in certain foods, such as food from animals, like dairy products, eggs, and meat.  The body needs some cholesterol in order to function properly.  The body's cell walls need cholesterol in order to produce hormones, vitamin D, and the bile acids that help to digest fat. But the body needs only a limited amount of cholesterol. When too much is present health problems such as heart disease may develop.
What actually happens is plaque(a thick, hard deposit) from too much cholesterol, may form in the body's arteries narrowing the space for blood to flow to the heart. Over time, this buildup causes hardening of the arteries which can lead to heart disease.  When not enough oxygen-carrying blood reaches the heart, chest pain can happen. If the blood supply to a portion of the heart is completely cut off by total blockage, like a blood clot, of a coronary artery, the result is a heart attack.
Everyone over the age of 20 should get their cholesterol levels measured at least once every five years.  Doctors recommend your total cholesterol stay below 200. However, over 200 to 239 is considered borderline high, and 240+ is High!  Your LDL, HDL, and triglyceride levels are important as well.
What does LDL & HDL mean?
Basically, cholesterol travels through the blood attached to a protein, this cholesterol-protein package is called a lipoprotein. Lipoproteins are classified as high density, low density, or very low density, depending on how much protein there is in relation to fat.
  • Low density lipoproteins (LDL): LDL, also called "bad" cholesterol, can cause buildup of plaque on the walls of arteries. The more LDL there is in the blood, the greater the risk of heart disease. Remember, L is for a Low number.
  • High density lipoproteins (HDL): HDL, also called "good" cholesterol, helps the body get rid of bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood. The higher the level of HDL cholesterol, the better. If your levels of HDL are low, your risk of heart disease increases. Remember, H is for a Higher number.
  • Very low density lipoproteins (VLDL): VLDL is similar to LDL cholesterol in that it contains mostly fat and not much protein.
  • Triglycerides: Triglycerides are another type of fat that is carried in the blood by very low density lipoproteins. Excess calories, alcohol, or sugar in the body are converted into triglycerides and stored in fat cells throughout the body.
So, do you have High Cholesterol?
Abnormal cholesterol levels such as high LDL cholesterol and/or low HDL cholesterol are a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. An unhealthy diet can cause high cholesterol, however, sometimes high cholesterol can run in families.  Keep in mind, High Cholesterol is a silent health risk that can be deadly!
Here are some ways to lower High Cholesterol:
  • Eat low-cholesterol foods. The American Heart Association recommends that you limit your daily cholesterol intake to less than 300mg. If you have heart disease, limit your daily intake to less than 200mg. People can significantly lower their dietary cholesterol intake by reducing their intake of saturated fats and by avoiding foods that are high in saturated fat and that contain large amounts of cholesterol.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking lowers HDL ("good") cholesterol levels. This trend can be reversed if you quit smoking.
  • Exercise. Exercise increases HDL cholesterol in some people. Even moderate-intensity activities, if done daily, can help control weight, diabetes, and high blood pressure; all risk factors for heart disease.
  • Take medication as prescribed by your doctor. Sometimes making changes to your diet and increasing exercise is not enough to bring your cholesterol down. You may also need to take a cholesterol-lowering drug.

Just a few simple changes can help lower your cholesterol and risk for heart disease!  Get tested and know your numbers!  TK, TTYLXOX!

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