Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Women's Healthy Heart Numbers (Part 2)

The second number we are going to look at is Blood Cholesterol. The Doctor will usually test for 4 different measures: Total Cholesterol, LDL Cholesterol (the “Bad” guys), HDL Cholesterol (the “Good” guys) and Triglycerides.

Total Cholesterol:
Desirable:   less than200 mg/dL
Borderline High:   200-239 mg/dL
High:  240+ mg/dL

LDL Cholesterol:
Optimal:  less than 100 mg/dL
Near Optimal:  100-129 mg/dL
Borderline:  130-159 mg/dL
High:  160-189 mg/dL
Very High:  190+ mg/dL

HDL Cholesterol:
High:  60+mg/dL (for HDL, high is good!)
Low:  40 mg/dL or less

Normal:  less than 150 mg/dL
Borderline High:  150-199 mg/dL
High:  200-499 mg/dL
Very High:  500+ mg/dL

Although having a low level of blood cholesterol doesn’t mean you won’t have a heart attack, a high level will increase your chances of having heart disease/high blood pressure by accumulating on artery walls…meaning, the arteries get narrower, making it more difficult for the blood to be pumped through…which makes your heart work harder…all the time!

Your body produces most of the cholesterol circulating in your bloodstream (we all need some cholesterol), but foods high in saturated fat, transfats and cholesterol, together with sedentary living, can raise the level even higher.

If your LDL cholesterol is borderline high, your Doctor should recommend lowering it by reducing the saturated and trans fats and cholesterol in your diet, losing weight (if you are overweight) and increasing your level of physical activity (which also helps to raise the good HDL Cholesterol). If these lifestyle measures do not work or your LDL Cholesterol is high or very high, or, if you have other risk factors for heart disease (i.e. a hereditary predisposition), your Doctor may recommend cholesterol-lowering medicines, such as statins, together with the lifestyle changes. The triglycerides (associated with LDL) are the fat that is deposited in the blood vessels, which causes athrosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). The blood vessels need to be flexible to allow the blood to flow through…the more triglycerides, the narrower the tube and the less flexible it is…once again, making the job difficult for the old ticker!

To protect yourself, have your cholesterol checked at least every 2 to 3 years, more often if you have high cholesterol or other risk factors.

“"Exercise is king, nutrition is queen, put them together and you've got a kingdom. ...”  Jack Lalanne

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