Ok, now it’s time to dive into the not-so-fun results. When I saw the below graphics (2011 vs 2012), I was excited – the numbers had dropped 7 mg/DL since 2011! And then I realized, that was actually a BAD thing.
HDL Cholesterol is…well…again, I am not a medical professional. So this time I turned to the smart people at WebMD to break down HDL for me.
They are another great medical resource, and they explained it much better than I ever could 🙂
Directly from WebMD:
HDL cholesterol is the well-behaved “good cholesterol.” This friendly scavenger cruises the bloodstream. As it does, it removes harmful bad cholesterol from where it doesn’t belong. High HDL levels reduce the risk for heart disease — but low levels increase the risk.
Experts believe HDL cholesterol may act in a variety of helpful ways that tend to reduce the risk for heart disease:
- HDL cholesterol scavenges and removes LDL — or “bad” — cholesterol
- HDL reduces, reuses, and recycles LDL cholesterol by transporting it to the liver where it can be reprocessed
- HDL cholesterol acts as a maintenance crew for the inner walls of blood vessels (endothelium). Damage to the endothelium is the first step in the process of atherosclerosis, which causes heart attacks and strokes. HDL chemically scrubs the endothelium clean and keeps it healthy.
So basically, the fact that I went from 43 mg/DL of HDL in 2011 to 36 mg/DL in 2012 was a move in the wrong direction. I still held out hope that maybe I was reading the results wrong. Then I saw this:
- HDL cholesterol levels greater than 60 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) are high. That’s good
- HDL cholesterol levels less than 40 mg/dL are low. That’s bad
In general, people with high HDL are at lower risk for heart disease. People with low HDL are at higher risk.
I was somewhat baffled by this. If you follow my blog regularly, you know I have been working very hard to change my eating habits by drinking more water and changing to healthier smoothies for breakfast. To be fair, I did take this test BEFORE I started several of these lifestyle changes, so I am hoping next year will be WAY better.
WebMD does go on to say…
If your HDL is low, you can take several tacks to boost your HDL level and reduce your heart disease risk:
- Exercise – Aerobic exercise for 30 to 60 minutes on most days of the week can help pump up HDL
- Quit smoking – Tobacco smoke lowers HDL, and quitting can increase HDL levels.
- Keep a healthy weight – Besides improving HDL levels, avoiding obesity reduces risk for heart disease and multiple other health conditions.
In certain cases, your doctor may recommend medication to improve your cholesterol level. Remember that multiple factors besides cholesterol contribute to heart disease. Diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, and genetics are all important as well.
Because so many factors contribute to heart disease, cholesterol isn’t destiny. People with normal HDL cholesterol can have heart disease. And people with low HDL levels can have healthy hearts. Overall, though, people who have low HDL cholesterol will have greater risk of developing heart disease than people with high HDL levels.
Well, I don’t smoke, I do try to walk daily and I am working towards getting to a healthy weight by making significant changes to way the way I eat and live. So hopefully, things will start IMPROVING! 🙂
Tomorrow, I will talk about the final result – my LDL (bad) cholesterol results.
P.S. – About.com also has a great article that talks about additional ways to raise your HDL (good) cholesterol levels