FACT: 71% of Americans surveyed were not sure of or do not recall their LDL (bad cholesterol) levels.
Because high levels of bad cholesterol can contribute to cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke,knowing your levels and talking to a doctor are important to help manage cholesterol and assess the risk of potential cardiac events.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fat-like material in your blood. Your body makes its own cholesterol. When you eat foods that have lots of fat or cholesterol, you can have too much cholesterol in your blood.
When there is too much cholesterol, it builds up in the walls of your arteries. If too much cholesterol builds up, the arteries become narrowed and blood flow to the heart is slowed down or blocked.
The blood carries oxygen to the heart, and if enough blood and oxygen cannot reach your heart, you may suffer chest pain. If the blood supply to a portion of the heart is completely cut off by a blockage, the result is a heart attack.
The Good and Bad of Cholesterol
HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is “GOOD” cholesterol
- HDL helps keep cholesterol from building up in the arteries
- Protects against heart disease
LDL (low-density lipoprotein) is “BAD” cholesterol
- LDL causes the build up or blockages in arteries, increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke
- Can cause heart disease
- Triglycerides are another type of fat, and they’re used to store excess energy from your diet.
- High levels of triglycerides in the blood are associated with atherosclerosis
Many people with heart disease or diabetes also have high triglyceride levels.
|When should you be checked?
- If you are 20 years and older
- If you have a family history of heart disease
- If you are a man over age 35
- If you are a woman over age 45
Desirable Cholesterol Levels
< 200 mg/dL
LDL (“bad” cholesterol)
< 100 mg/dL
HDL (“good” cholesterol)
≥ 60 mg/dL
< 150 mg/dL
Prevention and Treatment of High Cholesterol
In addition to making sure to eat a heart healthy diet and avoid tobacco smoke, one of the best ways to prevent and treat High Cholesterol levels is through a well planned and consistent exercise program.
Exercise for Healthy Cholesterol Numbers
To truly lose weight and lower cholesterol, cardiovascular exercise is going to take a key role in staying healthy. It gets your heart rate up and burns the most calories. Exercise helps change one’s cholesterol by lowering the triglycerides and increasing the good HDLs. Exercise does not have much impact on LDL unless combined with dietary changes and weight loss. To get the most benefit out of exercise, be sure to:
- Check with your doctor to ensure safety before starting an exercise program. Do not engage in any activity that causes chest pain, excessive shortness of breath, dizziness, or lightheadedness. Stop immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.
- Start out slowly. If you’re overweight and out of shape, this is especially important when you begin your exercise program. You want to strengthen your heart, not overextend it.
- Gradually increase the intensity and length of your workouts. To start a walking program, for instance, try going for a medium-paced walk for 20 minutes about four days a week. Each week start walking a little longer and a little faster, and add an extra day. Eventually, you want to be walking for about an hour on almost every day of the week. Challenge yourself by doing some light jogging on your walk, or walk up some big hills.
- Keep it interesting. For exercise to be an effective treatment for high cholesterol, you have to stick with your program. If you’re the kind of person who gets bored easily, alternate between sports, outdoor activities, gym work, and classes.
- Don’t overdo it. Remember that improving health and fitness with an exercise program should be a gradual change. It takes time for your body to be fit enough to keep up with strenuous exercise, and you’re likely to be sore, burned out, and frustrated if you push yourself too fast. So while it’s great to be enthusiastic about losing weight, be smart and slow about it. Don’t run five miles your first time out; build up to that pace. This approach will pay off with greater dividends in the long run.
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The month of February is synonymous for the heart driven holiday of love, this month is also American Heart month. In honor of this observance, it’s important to find out if you and your family members are at risk for this preventable disease.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD)—including heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure—is the number 1 killer of women and men in the United States. It is a leading cause of disability, preventing Americans from working and enjoying family activities. Although health disparities based on geography, race, ethnicity, gender, age, or genetics cannot be altered, lifestyle changes are the easiest way to gain control of your health and avoid potential risk factors.
You have heard it many times, eat your veggies and exercise to keep your heart strong and happy, diet is a big player in Cardio vascular disease prevention. A balanced diet of nutrient rich foods can have the biggest impact on your heart. Adults should have at least 5 servings a day of fruits and veggies, eat foods low in trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, and increase high fiber foods. Physical activity can help maintain a healthy weight and control blood pressure. Be sure to include varied physical activity such as cardio, strength training, and flexibility modalities at minimum 150 minutes a week into your lifestyle.
Smoking and/or alcohol consumption combined can lead to higher chances; moderation or cessation is key. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes harm the heart and blood vessels, increasing your risk of atherosclerosis (artery narrowing)—even if you smoke only once in a while. Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which can increase your blood pressure. Men should stick to no more than two drinks per day, and women to no more than one.
Diabetes has recently been added to the list of factors according to the National Diabetes Clearing House, “If you have diabetes you are twice as likely as someone who doesn’t for the disease.” Over time, high blood glucose levels (blood sugar) can increase the deposits of fatty materials in artery and blood vessel walls, increasing the chances for artery narrowing and hardening (atherosclerosis). Scientists have discovered that all cholesterol is not the same, aim to get your cholesterol levels checked at least once every 5 hrs. The so called “good” cholesterol –HDL- is actually protective against heart disease, it can help reduce inflammation, which contributes to heart health. HDL lower than 40 mg/dl increases your risk of heart disease, while HDL above 60 mg/dl may offer protection against heart disease.
As you begin your journey keep a few things in mind to keep you on track; Partner up, the journey is more fun. Don’t get discouraged, you will create unnecessary stress on your heart, and try not to get overwhelmed with vast information, the smallest steps are the most important.
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The CDC states that a women’s involvement in various modes of physical activity can help improve day to day function, especially women with heart disease or arthritis. Here are some tips on how to start to become involved in more physical activity:
Start to fit health and wellness it into you busy schedule
- If you can’t set aside one block of time, do short activities throughout the day, such as three 10-minute walks.
- Create opportunities for activity. Try parking your car farther away from where you are headed. If you ride the bus or train, get off one or two stops early and walk.
- Walk or bike to work or to the store.
- Use stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
- Take breaks at work to stretch or take quick walks, or do something active with coworkers at lunch.
- Walk while you talk, if you’re using a cell phone or cordless phone.
- Doing yard work or household chores counts as physical activity. Turn on some upbeat music to help you do chores faster and speed up your heart rate.
Make health and wellness fun
- Choose activities that you enjoy.
- Vary your activities, so you don’t get bored. For instance, use different jogging, walking, or biking paths. Or bike one day, and jog the next.
- Reward yourself when you achieve your weekly goals. For instance, reward yourself by going to a movie.
- If you have children, make time to play with them outside. Set a good example!
- Plan active vacations that will keep you moving, such as taking tours and sightseeing on foot.
Make health and wellness social
- Join a hiking or running club.
- Go dancing with your partner or friends.
- Turn activities into social occasions — for example, go to a movie after you and a friend work out.
- Don’t let cold weather keep you on the couch. You can find activities to do in the winter, such as indoor fitness classes or exercising to a workout video.
- If you live in a neighborhood where it is unsafe to be active outdoors, contact your local recreational center or church to see if they have indoor activity programs that you can join. You can also find ways to be active at home. For instance, you can do push-ups or lift hand weights. If you don’t have hand weights, you can use canned foods or bottles filled with water or sand.
Know your numbers
High cholesterol increases your risk for heart disease. People at any age can take steps to keep cholesterol levels normal, like eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercising regularly. (http://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/
Desirable Cholesterol Levels:
- Total cholesterol Less than 200 mg/dL
- LDL (“bad” cholesterol) Less than 100 mg/dL
- HDL (“good” cholesterol)40 mg/dL or higher
- Triglycerides Less than 150 mg/dL
Get screened regularly
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women. Having regular mammograms can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer. If you are 50 to 74 years old, be sure to have a screening mammogram every two years. If you are 40 to 49 years old, talk to your doctor about when to start and how often to get a screening mammogram. (http://www.cdc.gov/cancer
Every year in the United States, about 12,000 women get cervical cancer and almost 4,000 women die from it. But it is the most preventable female cancer with regular screening tests and early treatment. (http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/hpv/)
By Fitness Intern Kathleen Reno
Fitness Advice, Health News
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