The Good, the Bad and the Uh-oh
February is heart health month and I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to discuss cholesterol.
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance made in the liver and other cells. It can also be found in some animal products like eggs, dairy products and meats. Cholesterol in itself isn’t bad. However it is essential to learn about the two types of cholesterol – the “good” (HDL) and “bad” (LDL) cholesterol – where they come from and why they’re important in our overall health, why we should monitor cholesterol levels and how to maintain a healthy ratio between the good and the bad.
We’ve known for a long time that elevated cholesterol levels are one of the major risk factors leading to heart disease, stroke and/or heart attack. Cholesterol comes from two sources: our bodies and diet. Our bodies naturally produce approximately 75% of blood cholesterol, and diet makes up the remaining 25%. Those of us who have a family history of elevated cholesterol levels should note that regular exercise, a balanced diet and losing excess weight can lower naturally-occurring cholesterol.
Unfortunately for us, the typical American diet is high in saturated and trans fats. Fat intake, processed meats and fried foods should all be limited in order to lower diet-contributed cholesterol. Experts say no more that 10% of our caloric intake should come from these types of fats. Dr. McBarron recommends diets like the Mediterranean diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, and a light daily exercise regime such as a 10-minute walk to help lower cholesterol. She adds that supplementation programs like Vita Logic Cholesterol Formula, Vita Logic Fish Oil, Red Yeast Rice and a good co-enzyme Q10 like IHL Essentials CoQ10, 120 mg also help maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
The only way we can measure our cholesterol levels is through a blood test. We want the good cholesterol, HDL, to be higher than the bad, LDL, because HDL helps keep the bad cholesterol from sticking to the walls of our arteries; thus preventing blockages or clogging. Most people don’t even know they have high cholesterol because they don’t experience symptoms. That is why it is so important to have levels tested and monitored. Generally speaking, total levels above 200mg/dL are considered high. A good HDL level should be above 60mg/dL, and LDL levels should stay between 100-129mg/dL. However, different labs may use different testing methods, thus providing varying results. Consult the test range provided in your report for normal levels.
The good news is we can minimize our risk of heart disease, stroke and heart attacks by understanding cholesterol levels and making good lifestyle changes. Let’s start taking better care of our health and cholesterol so that we can avoid that dreaded ‘uh-oh.’