Showing posts with label cholesterol. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cholesterol. Show all posts

Monday, October 22, 2012

Cholesterol - More Than a Number


When you think about cholesterol, what comes to mind? Is it a big, juicy cheeseburger with crispy bacon and all the fixings? Is it the thought that only your parents and older relatives have to worry about cholesterol? Is it a guilty feeling in the pit of your stomach that reminds you to pay more attention to your own cholesterol?

triglycerides
As yummy as this looks, it can raise
cholesterol levels.
Here is one way to think about cholesterol. Imagine you had some delicious fried food for supper, and you’ve decided to pour the grease and leftover oil from the frying pan down the drain. As you might already guess, this probably isn’t the best way to dispose of the grease. If you don’t run the hot water while pouring it down the drain, you might end up with a pretty nasty clog the next time you go to use your kitchen sink. Cholesterol impacts our arteries in much the same way, except, our bodies don’t have a natural way to flush out the buildup on the walls of our arteries.

When cholesterol builds up on our artery walls, the heart receives smaller amounts of blood and oxygen. This raises our risk of heart attack and stroke. Removing this plaque from the walls of our arteries is not as simple as turning on the hot water, unfortunately. Cholesterol medication might be necessary if your arteries are showing signs of plaque buildup from having high cholesterol. Surgery to remove the plaque, caused by cholesterol buildup, is also a possibility.

Why Your Cholesterol Numbers Matter

Your cholesterol levels are more than just numbers we need to check from time to time. Our overall health is directly tied to cholesterol numbers, specifically as risk factors for serious health conditions such as heart disease and stroke. Keeping cholesterol at healthy levels prevents irreparable damage so often seen by patients suffering from heart failure, coronary artery disease, and stroke. Doesn’t it make more sense to prevent the problem rather than deal with a major health issue for the rest of your life?

Knowing your cholesterol numbers can help you live a healthier life rather than being surprised at your levels in the future. The American Heart Association encourages all adults of 20 years and up to get a fasting lipoprotein profile once every five years to check total cholesterol, ldl (bad cholesterol), hdl (good cholesterol), and triglycerides. This cholesterol test requires that you do not eat, drink, or take pills for a period of  nine to twelve hours. If you decide to have this test done, be sure to consult your physician if you have any cause for concern about the fast, for example, if you take medication on a daily basis.

High ldl cholesterol is considered a risk factor we can control, since we determine our own diets and lifestyles. See our previous article, Cholesterol - Know Your Numbers, for information about healthy levels. The risks associated with high cholesterol become even greater if you have other major risk factors, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. Arteries can become clogged with plaque, narrowing the vessels and potentially restricting the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart. Also, bits of the plaque can break off and get into the bloodstream, causing a heart attack or a stroke.

According to the Texas Heart Institute, stroke is the number three killer of Americans, with someone dying from a stroke every four minutes. Sometimes strokes may not be fatal, but they can be truly debilitating, leaving many patients disabled. One of the top risk factors for stroke is a high level of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (ldl cholesterol), and triglycerides, in the blood.

Cholesterol Medication 

As people get older, cholesterol medication may become a part of daily life. Statins are a common drug designed to lower cholesterol in order to prevent or treat cardiovascular disease. WebMd reports that statins, while not entirely free of side effects, prove to be very safe in the majority of patients receiving this type of therapy. If you are in doubt about your own cholesterol situation, make an appointment and review your options with your doctor.

If your doctor does prescribe medication to lower your cholesterol, remember that FamilyWize can help you lower the cost of prescriptions while you lower your bad cholesterol. Download the free discount prescription card and start saving today.

How a Healthy Diet Can Help

low cholesterol
Fried foods can raise ldl cholesterol.
Our heart health is a vital consideration when it comes to diet. Consuming fast food all the time, and eating other foods high in cholesterol, negatively impacts our health in a big way. We should try to avoid a diet high in saturated fat as much as possible, while also watching other foods that are high in dietary cholesterol. Eggs, shrimp, liver, and duck are high in dietary cholesterol, so it may pay to monitor your diet for a healthy heart.

Did you know your morning cup of coffee may have a connection to your cholesterol? The Harvard School of Public Health reports that unfiltered coffee contains cafestol, which has been shown to stimulate LDL cholesterol levels. Drinking filtered coffee should shield you from this substance, but other methods of coffee brewing, such as French press and boiling the coffee, may not separate this element from your beverage.

dietary cholesterol
Low cholesterol foods helps maintain
normal cholesterol levels.
According to the University of Florida, some types of fiber can remove cholesterol from the body, helping to battle high cholesterol levels. Oatmeal, oat bran, fish and Omega 3s, nuts like walnuts and almonds, and olive oil are a few examples of foods that can positively impact your cholesterol, according to MayoClinic.com. Check with your family physician for additional foods that can help you improve your diet and your cholesterol.

Strive for low cholesterol in your diet and normal cholesterol levels whenever you get your numbers checked. Don’t forget the benefits of regular exercise, as well. If you are able to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle now, your body will repay you for it as you get older. Do you do anything special to impact your cholesterol levels? Please share your experiences in our comments below.

Kathryn M. D'Imperio 
Contributing Writer

Monday, September 24, 2012

Cholesterol – Know Your Numbers


cholesterol high cholesterol
© Xaoc | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos
As the fall weather edges closer, special health months remind us of important aspects of our well being. September is National Cholesterol Education Month, a great time to learn about heart health. Keeping cholesterol levels in check gives us a healthier outlook for avoiding heart disease and stroke.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 out of 6 Americans has high cholesterol. I didn’t know it was so common until my dad told me he was cutting down on things like bacon and cheese. He said he had to keep an eye on his cholesterol. At that moment, I realized just how common cholesterol issues are for many families.

Heart disease and stroke are risks for people with high cholesterol. I'm proud of my dad for watching his dietary cholesterol. If you are concerned about cholesterol, check with your doctor. A simple blood test can give you your numbers. Ask questions and learn what you can do to control cholesterol. Simple changes in diet may be all you need. However, if your doctor feels you need medication to control cholesterol be sure to take them as prescribed.

What Is Cholesterol

If you are unfamiliar with cholesterol, you may wonder, what is cholesterol, what is high cholesterol or what is good cholesterol. The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute defines cholesterol as “a waxy, fat-like substance that’s found in all cells of the body.” High cholesterol may cause artery walls to have a buildup of cholesterol clogging the passageways. If blood flow is clogged or slowed, the patient is at a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.

Not all cholesterol is bad, though. High density lipoprotein (HDL) is considered good cholesterol while low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is considered bad cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is good because it takes cholesterol from different parts of your body and transports it to the liver where it is removed from your body. LDL cholesterol is bad because it clogs the arteries, restricts the flow of blood, and puts you at risk for a variety of heart conditions, including coronary heart disease, atherosclerosis, carotid artery disease, and stroke, to name just a few.

However, there is new research that suggests that not all LDL cholesterol is bad or even a risk factor for heart disease.

Cholesterol Numbers

Ideal cholesterol numbers change with age. Normal cholesterol numbers for one person may be considered very high for another, often depending on their health. According to WebMD, an LDL level below 100 is ideal for most people

LDL Cholesterol:
  • Less than 100 – Optimal
  • 100-129 – Near optimal / above optimal
  • 130-159 – Borderline high
  • 160-189 – High
  • 190 and above – Very high
HDL Cholesterol:
  • 60 and above – High / optimal; lower risks
  • Less than 40 in men and less than 50 in women – Low; considered a risk factor for heart disease
Triglycerides are also important when measuring cholesterol. The chemical form of fat stored in the body, triglycerides are calories your body doesn’t need to convert to energy right away.

The Mayo Clinic shares the following numbers for triglycerides:
  • Normal: Less than 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or less than 1.7 millimoles per L (mmol/L) 
  • Borderline high: 150 to 199 mg/dL (1.8 to 2.2 mmol/L)
  • High: 200 to 499 mg/dL (2.3 to 5.6 mmol/L) 
  • Very high: 500 mg/dL or above (5.7 mmol/L or above) 
The American Heart Association (AHA) advises that 100mg/dL or lower is preferred to lower risks and improve heart health.

Eating a healthier diet, watching your cholesterol, getting some fresh air and good exercise, and of course, taking any medications as prescribed by your doctor are all the things you can do to live a healthier life. The FamilyWize prescription drug card may help lower the cost of your prescriptions. On average, patients have saved 40% oh cholesterol drugs. Even if you have prescription coverage, FamilyWize may be able to help. Search for your prescription medication here and see how much you can save today.

If you have loved ones watching their cholesterol, as I do, keep their dietary requirements in mind when you invite them over for dinner. Be sure to take on the role of cheerleader, too, encouraging that great behavior when it comes to watching those cholesterol numbers.

Do your own research, read about new advances in medicine and health topics and talk to your doctor about what you are doing right and what you can be doing better, and differently, for your health.

By Kathryn M. D’Imperio
Contributing Writer