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The goal of todays class is for everyone to become more informed about cholesterol.
How many of you know your cholesterol numbers? (Ask for a show of hands.)
While some of you may already be familiar with your own cholesterol levels and what they mean, we will be discussing some points that you may not have known before.**Today, we will talk about:
what cholesterol is
why we need to know our cholesterol numbers
who should have their cholesterol tested and how often
what certain words mean that will appear on your test results
how you can improve your numbers
*A few moments ago, I asked if you knew what your cholesterol levels are, and a few of you raised your hands. Now, do you know what cholesterol is and what it does in your body?
Our bodies need cholesterol to live. Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance.
Just about every cell in our body contains cholesterol in the membrane that surrounds it.
It plays a crucial role in our nervous system, being at a higher concentration in our spinal cord and brain cells than other cells of the body.
Cholesterol is transported through our blood in tubes called arteries.Cholesterol is used to insulate our nerves, which is important for nerve function.
Cholesterol also makes certain hormones, which can be involved in cell signaling that controls things like appetite, energy, and sex drive.
Finally, cholesterol is used to digest dietary fat. It carries the fat through our bodies. It also helps our bodies produce bile, which our bodies add to fat to help break it down.**We know cholesterol is important to life, but where do our bodies get it?
Our liver is able to make all of the cholesterol our bodies need. But we also gain cholesterol from certain foods. For most people, about 75% of their cholesterol is made by their body, and another 25% comes from their diet. *Our cholesterol goes up when we eat foods high in trans fat, saturated fat, and of course cholesterol.
These foods include mostly animal products, meat, and dairy.
Some examples of meat products that contain cholesterol are beef, poultry, fish, pork, and the list goes on.
Dairy products include milk, eggs, cheeses, yogurt, ice creamand the list continues.
*Vegetable Products Contain Saturated and Trans Fat Foods:
Vegetable shortening or hydrogenated fat
Vegetable margarines (look for corn, soybean, safflower, cottonseed, olive, peanut and canola oil on label these are good!)
Snack foods (cookies, crackers)
Frozen or other prepared foods with cholesterol (butter or cream sauce) or other sources of either cholesterol and/or saturated and trans fat. *Cholesterol is essential to life, but we often have too much of a good thing.
Cholesterol and fats flowing through the blood can stick to the inside of artery walls and form what is called plaque. Plaque forms especially when cholesterol levels are high. When this happens, the artery is much narrower, so less blood can go through at once. The complete or almost complete blockage of arteries in certain areas of our bodies can cause a heart attack or stroke.
As you can see in the picture, there is a lot less area for blood to flow through when buildups occur on your artery walls. This buildup makes your heart have to work harder to pump blood through.
This is why cholesterol is a serious issue and often viewed in a negative light. *Ask yourself the question: Are my cholesterol levels too high?
If you dont know, you can find out by a simple blood test at your doctors office. Make sure to fast 12 hours before you have your blood drawn.
Fasting means no food or drink, except water.*Do you need to have your cholesterol checked?
Anyone over the age of 20 should have their cholesterol checked. If your last test was five years ago, its time to have another test. Your doctor may also determine if you need to be tested more frequently based on other risk factors or previous tests.
Oftentimes, there are no symptoms of hypercholesterolemia, which is the disease of high cholesterol. That is why it is important for everyone to be tested.
One more important thing to note is that there are cases in which it is necessary for children to have their cholesterol checked, too. The test is recommended for children with parents or grandparents who are under the age of 55 and have heart disease, because they are considered to be from high-risk families.
If it has been more than 5 years since your last test or you have never had your cholesterol checked, take the initiative and ask your doctor for a test!
*The results of your blood test will contain a few different numbers. It is important for you to know what these numbers mean and three different terms that may appear on your results. HDL, short for High Density Lipoprotein, is known as good cholesterol. Think H for happy.Medical experts think HDL tends to carry cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver where it passes from the body. Some experts believe HDL removes excess cholesterol from plaques and thus slows plaque growth. A high HDL level seems to be protective against heart attack, while a low HDL level indicates a greater risk for heart attack.LDL, short for Low Density Lipoprotein, is known as the bad cholesterol. Think L for Lousy.It is the major cholesterol carrier in the blood. If too much LDL cholesterol circulates in the blood, it can slowly build up in the walls of the arteries that feed the heart and brain. As touched on earlier, we know that together with other substances, it can form a plaque -- a thick, hard deposit that can clog those arteries. This condition is known as atherosclerosis [ath-uh-roh-skluh-roh-sis]. A clot (thrombus) that forms near this plaque can block the blood flow to part of the heart muscle and cause a heart attack. If a clot blocks the blood flow to part of the brain, a stroke results.Triglycerides are fats. They can also build up in your arteries, especially when cholesterol levels are high.Your total cholesterol level is the sum of HDL+ LDL+VLDL (VLDL, which is not directly measured in your test, stands for Very Low Density Lipoprotein). Cholesterol is measured in milligrams per deciliter, which tells you how much cholesterol there is in a certain volume of blood.
A total cholesterol of less than 200 mg/dL is desirable and places you at a lower risk for heart disease. A level between 200-239 mg/dL is borderline high, and levels above 240 mg/dL are high.
If your total cholesterol level is over 200mg/dL, you are not alone. According to the American Heart Association, over 105 million adult Americans have cholesterol levels over 200 mg/dL. Even more alarming is the fact that 36.6 million adults have levels above 240 mg/dL.
*The recommended levels for HDL cholesterol are:
At least 60 mg/dL for both men and women. Remember, this is the good cholesterol, or H for Happy if that helps to remember it. We want more of it.
Having a HDL cholesterol level below 50 mg/dL for women, and below 40 mg/dL for men is a risk factor for heart disease. *Now lets examine where we want LDL cholesterol levels to be for both men and women. Remember, LDL cholesterol is considered the bad cholesterol, so we want it as low as possible.
Any level below 100mg/dL is optimal, and levels between 100-129mg/dL are near or above optimal. Levels between 130-159mg/dL are considered borderline high. Levels between 160-189 mg/dL are considered high, and levels above 190 mg/dL are considered very high.
There are many things you can do to reduce your LDL cholesterol levels if they fall in any of the high categories.
*Now lets discuss triglyceride levels.
Less than 150 mg/dL is normal and where you want to be. Between 150-199 mg/dL is borderline high; 200-499 mg/dL is high; and 500+ mg/dL is very high.
Remember, triglycerides are fats, and the lower the better!**Once you have your results, how do you make your numbers better? How do you increase your HDL and lower your LDL and triglyceride numbers? One of the most important things you can do after getting your results is follow up with your doctor and follow through with his/her recommendations.
You can make several dietary changes to help. Dietary changes, along with improved exercise habits, can greatly influence your cholesterol levels.
If someone who is slightly overweight loses a little weight, they can improve their cholesterol numbers along with many other health benefits. It is important to maintain a healthy weight if you are already at an optimal weight level. Realize, however, that just because someone is skinny does not mean they have low or normal cholesterol. They, too, could just as easily have high cholesterol as someone who is overweight.
If you are a smoker, getting back a test showing high cholesterol levels is just another good reason for you to kick the habit. Now is as good of a time to quit as ever! If you would like information on quitting smoking, please see me after class. I can help you find resources right here in the community to do that.
Finally, If you are at very high risk for heart disease and you have high cholesterol levels, you and your doctor may consider one of many cholesterol-lowering drugs approved for use that are on the market today.*There are many ways that an altered diet, or even slightly altered diet, may help lower cholesterol. You should start limiting your intake of trans and saturated fats and cholesterol-containing foods. The best dietary action you can take to help lower your cholesterol is to decrease your intake of saturated fats. It may mean having a smaller slab of steak at dinner, cooking with egg whites only instead of the whole egg, or skipping the fried foods or dessert. Your doctor or dietitian can make suggestions on choices you can make that fit your lifestyle.
Increase your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, getting 5 servings a day. You should also switch to low-fat or fat-free dairy products. How many of you like the taste of skim milk the best?
Adding more fiber to your diet may also help lower your cholesterol, as studies have revealed starting your day off with a bowl of Cheerios can lower your cholesterol. *Improve your physical activity levels while improving your cholesterol levels.
It is recommended that adults get 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least 4 times a week, if not every day. Moderate exercise means that you are breathing more heavily, but you dont have to be in a full out run and breathing hard. You can get creative in the way you incorporate exercise by walking, jogging, swimming, biking, or playing a sport you enjoy.
It also may be helpful to realize your 30 minutes of exercise each day does not have to be all at once! It can be broken up into smaller increments. For example, you could go for a 10 minute walk with a co-worker on your lunch break, and then go on a 20 minute bike ride with your family when you get home from work.*Several drugs are available that work in different ways to help improve a persons cholesterol. Your doctor may prescribe a cholesterol-lowering drug if you are at increased risk for heart attack or stroke. Drugs may also be considered after cholesterol levels remain high after months of improved diet and exercise habits.
The most important thing you can do when taking cholesterol-lowering drugs is to follow your doctors advice. Never stop taking your medicine without first consulting your doctor, even if it is making you feel bad or you think you are experiencing side effects.*I want to re-emphasize how important it is for everyone to have a cholesterol test and to know what the results mean. And, no matter what your test results say, everyone should work hard to live a heart-healthy lifestyle, which means getting enough exercise, making healthy food choices, and not smoking.