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Posts Tagged ‘HDL’

How to Lower Cholesterol: Step 3

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on March 30, 2009

In the last post I gave you the first step towards lowering cholesterol. Here is the third. Remember, by implementing these basic steps, you’re establishing a solid foundation that will support heart health and increase the effectiveness of medications and supplements.

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

Weight has a significant impact on your heart health and cholesterol levels. Weight loss alone may lower triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels. Losing as little as 10% body weight could drop your cholesterol back to the heart healthy range.

All the best,
Lisa Nelson RD

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How to Lower Cholesterol: Step 2

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on March 28, 2009

In the last post I gave you the first step towards lowering cholesterol. Here is the second. Remember, by implementing these basic steps, you’re establishing a solid foundation that will support heart health and increase the effectiveness of medications and supplements.

Step 2: Adopt a heart healthy lifestyle.

This means eating a diet that support heart health and including physical activity as part of your daily routine.

Here are some basic guidelines for a heart healthy diet to lower cholesterol:

  • Saturated fat intake should be limited to less than 7% of your total daily calories.
  • Daily trans fat intake should be less than 1% of your total calorie intake.
  • Cholesterol should be limited to less than 300 mg/day.
  • Eat 25-35 grams of dietary fiber. The needs to include an adequate intake of soluble fiber, which will promote lower LDL levels.
  • Include sources rich in omega 3 fatty acids to your diet. Some benefits of omega 3 fatty acids include lower triglycerides, increased HDL cholesterol, and slower build-up of arterial plaque.

Here are basic guidelines for physical activity to lower cholesterol.

  • Include at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week.

This is the latest recommendation of The Health and Human Services Department. In order to see substantial health benefits, include at least 150 minutes, 2 ½ hours, of moderate-intensity activity each week. If times a factor, you can see the same benefits by bumping up the intensity and being vigorously active 75 minutes (1 hr. 15 min.) each week.

By include regular physical activity you will raise HDL cholesterol and lower triglycerides.

Stay tuned for step 3.

All the best,
Lisa Nelson RD

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How to Lower Cholesterol: Step 1

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on March 26, 2009

It’s often easier to turn to supplements or medications to lower cholesterol. However, the effectiveness of these treatments will not be as great if you do not have a solid foundation in place that supports heart health. Over the next few posts I’ll give you three basic steps you can implement now to promote lower cholesterol levels and reduce heart disease.

Step 1: Know and understand your cholesterol lab results.

A simple blood test will check your cholesterol levels. This test is also known as a lipid profile. You will learn your total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. By knowing the “breakdown” of your lipid panel you (or your MD/dietitian) will be able to determine the best steps to take for results.

The American Heart Association Recommends that everyone over the age of 20 know their cholesterol levels.

Stay tuned for step 2.

All the best,
Lisa Nelson RD

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Physical Activity – How much do you really need?

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on March 24, 2009

As I previously mentioned, The Health and Human Services Department sets physical activity guidelines after reviewing a good decades worth of research related to physical activity and health.

This report encompasses everyone from the age of 6 and up. Let’s go into a little more detail on the adult guidelines.

Adult Physical Activity Guidelines

  1. All adults should avoid inactivity.
    Any type of activity is better than nothing. Adults who include activity as part of their everyday life gain some form of health benefit.
  2. To see substantial health benefits, include at least 150 minutes (2 ½ hours) per week of moderate-intensity activity. If times a factor, you can see the same benefits by bumping up the intensity and being vigorously active 75 minutes (1 hr. 15 min.) each week.Yes, it is still okay to break your activity into chunks.For example, if your schedule doesn’t allow 30 minutes at the gym, you can include a 10 minute brisk walk during lunch break to count towards the goal of 150 minutes for the week. However, workout segments less than 10 minutes in length are not as beneficial.

    Also, the most benefit is seen by spreading your activity throughout the week. If you’re tempted to hit the gym for a power workout session on a Saturday for 2 ½ hours, that is not as beneficial as 30 minutes of activity 5 days out of the week. But, remember, any form/amount of activity is better than nothing!

  3. If you want to take things to the next levels, more extensive health benefits are seen when activity is increased to 300 minutes (5 hours) per week of moderate intensity activity or 150 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic activity.
  4. Don’t forget strength training! You want to include all major muscle groups on two or more days each week. Especially beneficial as we age and see a decline in metabolism (and corresponding weight gain) if muscle mass is not maintained.

Now, don’t let yourself be overwhelmed and give up without even attempting to meet these guidelines. Activity does not have to be hard or expensive. You can walk your dog, go dancing, climb the stairs at work, mow the lawn, and go to the gym. There are many, many options available to get 2 ½ hours of physical activity every week.

All the best,

Lisa Nelson RD

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Physical Activity – How much physical activity is recommended?

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on February 28, 2009

By now you know being heart healthy and losing weight go hand-in-hand with physical activity. If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you have to be regularly active. If you want to lower triglycerides you have to be active. If you want to raise HDL you have to be active.

The Health and Human Services Department sets physical activity guidelines after reviewing a good decades worth of research related to physical activity and health.

Here’s a quick review of the adult guidelines:

  1. All adults should avoid inactivity.
  2. To see substantial health benefits, include at least 150 minutes (2 ½ hours) per week of moderate-intensity activity. If times a factor, you can see the same benefits by bumping up the intensity and being vigorously active 75 minutes (1 hr. 15 min.) each week.
  3. If you want to take things to the next levels, more extensive health benefits are seen when activity is increased to 300 minutes (5 hours) per week of moderate intensity activity or 150 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic activity.
  4. Don’t forget strength training! You want to include all major muscle groups on two or more days each week. Especially beneficial as we age and see a decline in metabolism (and corresponding weight gain) if muscle mass is not maintained.

All the best,

Lisa Nelson RD

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Lower Cholesterol – Do you understand your lab results?

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on February 19, 2009

It’s very possible your MD orders lab work and you have no idea what or why you’re having blood drawn. Well, let’s clear up the confusion when it comes to your cholesterol labs.

The terms “lipid panel”, “lipid profile”, and “lipoprotein profile” are used interchangeably to order the same set of labs. To make reading this easier, I’m going to use “lipid profile” from here on out.

“Lipid” is simply a medical term for “fat”. A lipid profile measures fatty substances in your blood. Cholesterol is one type of fat.

When you eat food containing cholesterol or when your body produces cholesterol and releases it into your bloodstream, the cholesterol will attach to a protein. This package of cholesterol plus a protein is called a lipoprotein (lipid or fat plus protein). A lipid profile measures lipoprotein levels in your blood.

Lipid profiles include five components:

LDL – “bad” cholesterol
LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol carries mostly cholesterol, some protein, and minimal triglyercerides throughout your circulation. LDL should be less than 130 mg/dL, ideally less than 100 mg/dL.

VLDL – “bad” cholesterol
VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol contains minimal protein and mainly transports triglycerides. VLDL should be less than 40 mg/dL.

Triglycerides
Triglycerides are a type of fat in the blood, not a type of cholesterol. Triglycerides are frequently used to estimate VLDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Here’s the calculation: triglycerides divided by 5 equals VLDL cholesterol. Triglycerides should be less than 200 mg/dL, ideally less than 150 mg/dL.

HDL – “good” cholesterol
HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol removes cholesterol from your bloodstream and carries it back to the liver. I like to think of HDL as a vacuum cleaner, picking up cholesterol LDL leaves behind in your arteries, the more HDL the better. HDL should be greater than 40 mg/dL, ideally greater than 60 mg/dL.

Total cholesterol
Cholesterol is essential to bodily functions, such as building cells and producing hormones. However, too much cholesterol will build up on artery walls, form a plaque, and potentially “plug” the artery resulting in a heart attack or stroke. Total cholesterol is calculated from the above components (Total cholesterol = HDL + LDL + VLDL). Total cholesterol should be less than 200 mg/dL.

Do you see how if you only know your total cholesterol, you only have one piece of the lipid profile?

Now, sometimes your results will include ratios or a risk score. Here’s an explanation of what those numbers mean.

Risk Score
A risk score is based on you lipid profile results, sex, age, family history, and various other risk factors. If you have a high risk score for heart disease, it’s best to speak with your MD to evaluate your risk score.

Cholesterol:HDL Ratio
You want a low ratio of cholesterol to HDL. A ratio lower than 4.5 is good, but 2 or 3 is best. You can calculate your cholesterol to HDL ratio by dividing total cholesterol by HDL. For example, your total cholesterol is 195 and your HDL is 55. 195 divided by 55 equals a ratio of 3.5.

It’s actually not your total cholesterol that has the greatest impact on your heart disease risk. The ratio of total cholesterol to HDL is a critical factor. If your total cholesterol is less than 200, but your ratio is 5, you are still at increased risk for developing heart disease.

LDL:HDL Ratio
This ratio compares the amount of bad (LDL) cholesterol to your good (HDL) cholesterol levels. You want a ratio less than 3.5, ideally less than 2.5. To calculate your ratio, divide LDL by HDL. For example, your HDL is 55 and LDL is 100. 100 divided by 55 equals a ratio of 1.8.

Triglyceride:HDL Ratio
A low ratio of triglycerides to HDL is best, ideally less than 2. To calculate your triglyceride to HDL ratio, divide your triglycerides by your HDL. For example, your triglyceride level is 200 and your HDL is 55. 200 divided by 55 equals a ratio of 3.6.

Lipid profiles are commonly ordered to assess your heart disease risk. Your doctor or dietitian will use the results to determine the best treatment to reduce your risk.

A lipid profile is beneficial, because you know your “good” cholesterol level and “bad” cholesterol levels. The interventions that work best to raise HDL and lower LDL differ, so knowing all your numbers helps you make the most effective changes.

You’re probably wondering why a lipid profile isn’t always ordered versus simply checking your total cholesterol (and possibly HDL). Cost and time always play a part and if your risk for heart disease is low, then a quick and less expensive screening makes sense. If you are at increased risk, a more complete assessment (lipid profile) may be more appropriate. Everyone’s situation is unique, so it’s best to discuss what’s right for you with your MD.

Now, to receive regular heart health and weight loss tips from dietitian Lisa Nelson, subscribe to The Heart of Health today!

All the best,
Lisa Nelson RD

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Mediterranean Diet to Reduce Heart Disease

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on December 23, 2008

I’m sure you’ve heard of the Mediterranean Diet and it’s link to heart health. The Mediterranean Diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and monounsaturated fats (olive oil).

Those that follow a Mediterranean Diet have a reduced there risk of developing heart disease and dying from a heart attack. Even those that have survived a heart attack and lived to adopt the Mediterranean Diet significantly reduced their risk of a second heart attack and other complications.

In an interesting twist, the native Mediterranean population has gradually adopted a more Western diet leading to negative results. The Mediterranean area has seen an income rise that’s resulted in extra dollars being spent on meat and saturated fat food sources. Over the past 4 decades the average calorie intake in the Mediterranean countries has increased ~30%. So, the once healthy Mediterranean countries are now seeing the weight epidemics the US is familiar with – 75% of the population overweight or obese in Greece, with over half of the population in Italy, Spain, and Portugal following suit. These countries are now supporting the “Mediterranean Diet” as a part of their cultural heritage they can not let die.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the characteristics common to a Mediterranean Diet:

  • High intake of fruits and vegetables
  • Select whole grains
  • Consume healthy fats (canola and olive oil)
  • Eat nuts in moderation
  • Low red wine consumption
  • Limit eggs to less than 4 times per week
  • Consume little red meat
  • Eat fish regularly

All the best,

Lisa Nelson, RD, LN
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Trans Fats Banned in California

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on October 13, 2008

Good news if you live in California! Starting in 2010 restaurants will be banned from using trans fats in food preparation. This will be a major benefit to those of you struggling to lower total cholesterol, low LDL “bad” cholesterol, or raise HDL “good” cholesterol. To improve your lipid profile you should follow a diet with less than 30% daily calories from fat. Ideally your intake of trans fatty acids should be zero for heart health. Since numerous restaurants affected will be nationwide chains, hopefully the trend will start to spread and avoiding trans fats when dining out will not be an issue after a few more years.

All the best,
Lisa Nelson, RD, LN
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Raise HDL Cholesterol and Improve Memory

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on October 10, 2008

I recently published an article titled How to Raise HDL the Good Cholesterol and I just came across another great reason to boost HDL numbers.

A study published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology indicates higher HDL levels equal higher scores on memory tests. This was a 5 year study of ~3700 men and women with an average age of 55 to 61 years-old. The memory test included hearing a list of twenty words and then writing down all the words participants could remember within 2 minutes.

No link was found between triglycerides nor total cholesterol and memory performance. Nor was a link identified between HDL and Alzheimer’s.

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Do I need to be concerned about high HDL levels?

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on June 22, 2008

My LDL is 50, my HDL is 160 and my triglycerides 90.  Do I need to be concerned about my high HDL levels?

The above question is one I recently answered for a visitor to The Health Central Network.  I thought readers of this blog may be interested in the answer as well, so here it is. 

HDL is the good cholesterol and does not contribute to arterial plaque that leads to heart disease.  HDL actually does the opposite and reduces the plaque lining your artery walls.  A high level is a good thing and reduces your heart disease risk.  If taking medications, speak with your MD to double check whether your medication is playing a role.

With an HDL of 160, your total cholesterol is going to be over 200.  However, the high HDL level negates the negative of a total over 200.  You are doing fine, keep up the good work!

All the best,

Lisa Nelson, RD, LN

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