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Archive for April, 2009

Triglycerides – How to Lower Triglycerides

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on April 27, 2009

I’ve recently answered several questions related to triglycerides. These questions range from “What are triglycerides?” to “My triglycerides are 400, do I need to worry?” on to “Help, my triglycerides are 1200, how do I fix this?”

So, I’m going to answer all these questions here for those of you who are wondering, but haven’t asked.

What are triglycerides?

Triglycerides are a type of fat. Actually, they’re the most common type of fat in foods and in your body. When you eat foods containing fat and oil, such as butter, French fries, and chocolate chip cookies, the body takes the fat and stores it in your body as triglycerides. So, all those “fat cells” in your body are made up of triglycerides.

What do triglycerides have to do with cholesterol?

When you see your MD, he or she may order a “lipid panel” (lipid is a fancy term for fat). From the lipid panel you will learn your total cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglycerides.

Total cholesterol = HDL + LDL + VLDL

Well, what in the world is VLDL? Not something you’ve probably seen or heard of before. VLDL is an acronym for Very Low Density Lipoproteins, another “bad” type of cholesterol. Triglycerides are used to calculate VLDL levels in your blood.

Triglycerides x 20% = VLDL (bad) cholesterol

Also, the liver uses triglycerides as fuel for cholesterol production. So, if you eat a high fat (triglyceride) diet, the liver will increase its’ production of cholesterol and put more cholesterol out into your blood.

What is a normal triglyceride level?

You want your triglycerides to be below 200 mg/dL. Borderline high triglycerides are from 200-500 mg/dL. Triglycerides are high risk above 500 mg/dL.

Some experts argue that 200 mg/dL is too high and that a normal level should be less than 150 mg/dL. The numbers I’ve listed above are the current guidelines from the National Cholesterol Education Program Expert’s Panel.

If your triglycerides are high your heart disease risk increases.

What you can do to lower triglycerides?

1. Limit simple sugars.

Unlike other types of cholesterol, triglycerides are affected by sugars you eat. You need to limit foods such as soft drinks, candy, baked goods, syrup, table sugar, jelly, and honey. A high intake of fruit juice can also raise triglyceride levels since juice contains a high content of natural sugars.

2. Limit alcohol.

If your triglycerides are borderline high or high risk, discuss your alcohol intake with your MD. My recommendation for borderline high (200-500 mg/dL) is to limit alcohol to no more than 1 drink per day for women, 2 drinks per day for men. One drink equals 12 ounces beer, 4 oz wine, or 1 ½ ounces liquor. If your triglyceride level is high risk (great than 500 mg/dL) I recommend NO alcohol. Again, discuss your situation with your MD.

3. Lose weight and/or maintain a healthy weight.

Many times weight loss alone will lower your triglycerides. Losing as little as 10% body weight could drop your triglycerides back to the normal range.

4. Choose a low-fat diet.

To achieve lower triglyceride levels, maintain a dietary intake of 30% or less of total calories coming from fat. A healthy diet for normal triglyceride levels should consist of whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, and lean meat.

5. Increase your physical activity.

Boosting your activity can lower your triglycerides up to 40%. If you’re not currently active, talk to your MD before starting an activity program. To reduce triglycerides, be physically active at least 30 minutes on 3 or more days each week. The more activity the better.

Triglycerides aren’t all bad. They provide efficient energy storage, cushion your organs, transport certain vitamins, and keep you warm by providing insulation. What’s important is to keep them under control!

Now, if you like this information and want to receive regular heart health and weight loss tips from dietitian Lisa Nelson, subscribe to The Heart of Health today!

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Reduce Heart Disease – What are the benefits of supplementing CoQ10?

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on April 3, 2009

The benefits of CoQ10 are numerous:

  • Prevent heart disease
  • Slows the aging process
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Boosts energy
  • Increases strength
  • Builds up the immune system
  • Improves the nervous system
  • Protects against gum disease
  • Counteracts negative side effects of some cholesterol medications

Consult your MD to determine if supplementing CoQ10 is the right treatment option for your situation.

All the best,
Lisa Nelson RD

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Heart Disease – Link between Temperament, Personality, and Heart Disease Risk

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on April 2, 2009

Lisa Nelson RD: What role does temperament/personality play in a person’s heart disease risk?

Dr. Shelby-Lane: Temperament and personality have a definite effect on blood pressure and on heart disease. This is a great question and it has been studied by the experts, as you will note in the following excerpts. Heart disease consists of congenital abnormalities, arrhthymias, lipid abnormalities acquired and congenital, functional and physiologic problems, risk factors such as diabetes and metabolic syndrome, structural disease and valvular problems, heart failure, acquired disease such as coronary artery disuse, and infectious diseases along with diseases related to blood vessel structure. Again, anxiety, stress, and stress related disorders can have an effect on major hormones, heart rate and heart health and heart disease. Nutritional abnormalities can also affect heart performance.

New research suggests that people who suffer from panic attacks are at increased risk of developing heart disease.

Why people who suffer from panic attacks should be at increased risk of developing heart disease is unclear. According to the study, authors put forward several theories, one being that panic disorders might trigger nervous system changes which could promote the clogging of arteries. Another theory is that people may have been misdiagnosed as having panic attacks when they actually have coronary heart disease. “Clinicians should be vigilant for this possibility when diagnosing and treating people presenting with symptoms of panic,” said Dr Walters.

Study results have shown that people with depression are at increased risk of heart attack and heart failure because they are less likely to be active.

Scientists have known for some years that people who are depressed are at increased risk of heart attack and other cardiac events, however the reason why this should be has remained unclear. However, according to results of a study by Mary A Wooley and colleagues, the increased risk is due to behavioral factors.

The researchers analyzed data obtained from 1,017 people with heart disease, 199 of which had symptoms of depression. Results showed that 10% of depressed participants had a cardiac event (e.g. heart attack, heart failure, stroke, transient ischemic attack) during the study period, compared to just 6.7% of non-depressed participants, meaning that depressed participants were 50% more likely to have a cardiac event. However, results also showed that depressed participants were more likely to smoke, were less likely to take their medications as prescribed, and were less physically active. After the researchers factored these behaviors into their calculations the risk of a cardiac event in depressed participants was similar to that in non-depressed participants.

All the best,
Lisa Nelson RD
Be Heart Healthy and Lose Weight

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Reduce Heart Disease – Do you know the signs of a CoQ10 deficiency?

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on April 2, 2009

Symptoms associated with a CoQ10 deficiency develop gradually over time, so it’s very easy to miss the signs.

Symptoms include: aches and pains, fatigue, sore muscles, weakness, malaise, and shortness of breath

Our bodies are designed for CoQ10 to be formed from a variety of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. If your intake of vitamin C, B-12, B-6, pantothenic acid, and various other minerals and nutrients is deficient, the production of CoQ10 is compromised. Conditions and medications, such as hyperthyroidism, antidepressants, gum disease, and advanced age will also cause lower than adequate levels of CoQ10.

All the best,
Lisa Nelson RD

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High Blood Pressure and Magnesium

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on April 2, 2009

Magnesium is not a mineral that tops discussions very often; however, magnesium is critical to over 300 bodily functions.  Magnesium maintains normal muscle and nerve function, helps regulate blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure and heart rhythm, maintains bone strength, and supports a healthy immune system. 

Many people consume a diet low in magnesium receiving less than two-thirds of the recommended dietary allowance. Good magnesium sources include whole grains, spinach, broccoli, squash, beans, popcorn, nuts, pork, and seeds. Fair sources of magnesium include dairy products, chocolate, and meats.
 
A magnesium deficiency takes a long time to develop. Magnesium deficiency symptoms include irregular heartbeat, weakness, fatigue, numbness, muscle pain, disorientation, and seizures. Conditions related to increased risk for magnesium deficiency include alcoholism, poorly controlled diabetes, intestinal disorders (Crohn’s disease), and intake of certain medications (diuretics). Sup-optimal levels of magnesium intake have been linked with diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis, and pregnancy discomfort.
 
Diabetes
 
When someone has type II diabetes they are making adequate insulin levels. The problem with type II diabetes is that the cells do not recognize the insulin. When cells do not recognize insulin they do not let sugar from the blood enter the cell and blood sugar levels remain elevated. This leads to sugar spilling over into the urine, organ damage, and other complications. Magnesium is a factor in this because it’s the “key” that opens the door for insulin to get into the cell.  If magnesium levels are low there are no keys to open the door and insulin is unable to do its job resulting in continued high blood sugar levels.  When diabetes is poorly controlled the loss of magnesium in the urine is even greater.
 
Hypertension
 
Blood levels of potassium, calcium, and magnesium are closely connected and all influence blood pressure. Studies have linked low magnesium levels with elevated blood pressure. As an aside, if you have ever been told to eat a banana by your doctor, you should also increase your magnesium intake. FYI – Bananas are not the best source of potassium – potatoes are!
 
Osteoporosis
 
Magnesium is a major component of the matrix (middle) of bones. Low magnesium levels cause fragile bones that are less flexible and have a slower recovery rate if injured.
 
Pregnancy
 
Adequate levels of magnesium are related to decreased leg cramps during pregnancy. A magnesium deficiency is also a risk factor for gestational diabetes.
 
Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for Magnesium:
 
Men 350 mg per day
Women 280 mg
Pregnancy 300 mg
Lactation 355 mg first 6 months; 340 mg next 6 months
 
You do NOT want to take megadoses of magnesium – more is not better in this case.  You just want enough to meet the RDA. If you feel your intake of magnesium from foods is low, taking a basic multivitamin is a simple way to ensure you meet your needs. Read the multivitamin label carefully because not all multivitamins include magnesium. Always check with your doctor before altering your medications or supplements.
 
Bottom Line:
 
Magnesium may not be an exciting mineral, but it is critical.  Ensure you are eating adequate sources of magnesium rich foods and/or consider a supplement to promote optimum health.
 

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Reduce Heart Disease – How does CoQ10 work?

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on April 1, 2009

The powerhouse of your cells is the mitochondria. The mitochondria convert the foods you eat into energy your body can use. The form of energy the body uses is called ATP. ATP is produced within the mitochondria by taking needed electrons from foods. CoQ10 is responsible for carrying the electrons back and forth between enzymes in the production of ATP.

If that was a little too much science for you, let me make it much simpler.

Without CoQ10 your cells can not produce energy for your body to function, including the heart muscle. The heart uses an enormous amount of energy to function and maintain blood circulation 24/7.

Numerous studies have shown patients with heart disease to have a CoQ10 deficiency. Individuals suffering from cardiomyopathy or heart failure appear to have the greatest deficiencies. Improvements have been seen when individuals suffering from cardiomyopathy or heart failure receive supplemental CoQ10. Benefits of supplementing CoQ10 are seen in individuals experiencing angina, coronary artery disease, post-operative heart surgery, and heart attack recovery.

CoQ10 is especially beneficial if you have narrowed arteries and reduced blood flow to the heart. CoQ10 uses what little oxygen and nutrients the heart receives to increase production of ATP and boost the hearts energy levels.

The physician’s routinely using CoQ10 as part of their treatment plan for heart patients often refer to CoQ10 as “the miracle supplement” due to the drastic improvements to patient heart function.

All the best,
Lisa Nelson RD

Posted in heart health, high blood pressure, lower cholesterol | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »