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  • Cholesterol Education Month
    Added by My Identity Doctor

    First—did you know that Cholesterol Education Month existed?! Because I definitely didn’t! Thank goodness Jon and Burton are excellent researchers (I guess this would make Burton an excellent sniffer? :]).

    We’ve all heard the word cholesterol floating around on TV and on the front covers of health magazines (or Woman’s World if that is your idea of a health magazine… please proceed with caution!). It’s often thrown around in tandem with discussions of heart disease and high blood pressure… However, what does it really mean?

    Cholesterol is a type of fat—it is made within every cell in our bodies. At normal levels, it helps nerve signals travel from the brain throughout the body, aids in processing of vitamins A, E, D and K, and assists in the creation of a variety of hormones. So, why does it get such a bad rap?


    Cholesterol Education Month

    Without getting too scientific, there are two different types of primary cholesterols—known as lipoproteins, “lipo” meaning “fat”. High-density lipoproteins [or HDL] are the “good/healthy” cholesterol—they help in all of the processes above, and are generally helpful within our bodies. However, Low-density lipoportiens [or LDL] are the “bad” type of cholesterol. LDL [which my grade 11 biology teacher aided in reinforcing by associating the L with “loser”… :)] on the other hand, are the family of cholesterol that can build-up inside our blood vessels [veins and arteries] and cause problems.

    Simply put, too much LDL circulating through our blood can accumulate on the sides of our blood vessels and create more friction as blood tries to move through. This causes the heart to have to pump harder to force blood through narrowing blood vessels, and this is what causes increased blood pressure. Between blood pressure increases and accumulation of “plaque”-like cholesterol inside veins and arteries, blood does not move as efficiently, blood clots can form and this can lead to heart disease, stroke [a blood clot—or thromboembolism—forming either a) somewhere in the body and traveling to the brain or b) forming within the brain and blocking the blood supply to the most important organ in our bodies and impairing function in a variety of physical and cognitive processes and functions].

    The Mayo Clinic has an excellent chart of cholesterol values as they will measure via a blood test. In reality, blood test results are only as good as what you are willing to do once you get them! Didn’t get a number that your doctor—or you—were aiming for? Here are some thoughts to get you on the journey towards dropping that number and in turn, dropping your risk of cardiovascular disease:
    Check out some food labels—how much cholesterol are you really getting from what you’re eating? Remember, the percentage on the box only correlates when the amount you’re eating is the same as the serving size on the label!
    Exercise regularly. This will cut the risk of developing cardiovascular disease further by helping your body adapt to be more efficient in just about everything you do. If you’re not currently physically active, consider starting by walking just 10-15 minutes three days a week, and work your way up.
    Have your cholesterol checked at least annually even if you are healthy to catch any changes early. Have your doctor explain what your results mean—and what action you need to take.

    Cholesterol levels should first attempt to be altered with dietary and lifestyle changes (limiting fat and cholesterol intake, decreasing sources of animal-derived fats which are often high in cholesterol, as well as increasing physical activity levels) pending no other health conditions are present to increase the risk of immediate problems stemming from high cholesterol (i.e. heart disease or type 2 diabetes). Dietary fats come in two primary forms—saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fats are more difficult for the body to break down, and thus can cause specific problems with cholesterol levels—these include butter, animal products, coconut oils and avocado—and should be consumed in moderation. On the other hand, unsaturated fats—plant based items such as olive, canola and corn oil, but also fish—provide “healthy” fats that the body can use to maintain efficient functioning—remember, our brains are composed of fatty tissues within the neurons, and require glucose for fuel.  You can read more about choosing fat sources here.

    If these changes do not produce sufficient results, a variety of medications are available to lower cholesterol. Per the Mayo Clinic, cholesterol medications can alter the levels of three different cholesterol-based blood components—LDL, HDL and triglycerides (found in dietary fats—excess is stored within fat tissues in the body).  To learn more about how to alter your levels of cholesterol and fat intake, learn more here, or consult a Registered Dietitian in your area!

    To learn more about cholesterol, heart disease and stroke, visit the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
    Download Free Awareness Ribbon

    Published by My Identity Doctor on September 10, 2013


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