Well, 14 days have gone by since my last update about my health screening. I blame it on the busy days at work, which have kept me working on a lot of great projects to improve processes. Sorry!
As I dug deeper into each of the results for the blood-pricking test, I was surprised to see that my LDL (bad cholesterol) was actually within acceptable levels (94 mg/dL)! But, as the diagram below clearly points out, I am on the “borderline” of the unhealthy range which appears to start at 100 mg/dL. So am I doing good or NOT?
Again, I turned to the American Heart Association to explain what these results meant:
The lower your LDL cholesterol, the lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. In fact, it’s a better gauge of risk than total blood cholesterol. In general, LDL levels fall into these categories:
- Less than 100 mg/dL – Optimal
- 100 to 129 mg/dL – Near or above optimal
- 130 to 159 mg/dL – Borderline high
- 160 to 189 mg/dL – High
- 190 mg/dL and above – Very high
Your other risk factors for heart disease and stroke help determine what your LDL level should be, as well as the appropriate treatment for you. A healthy level for you may not be healthy for your friend or neighbor. Discuss your levels and your treatment options with your doctor to get the plan that works for you. The mean level of LDL cholesterol for American adults age 20 and older is 115.0 mg/dL.
Based on the above, I was still a little confused about why LDL Cholesterol was “bad” and what it all means. This helpful tidbit from WebMD helped put it into “LDL for Dummies” terms my small, fragile mind could grasp:
LDL cholesterol can’t help being bad — it’s just its chemical makeup. Here’s how high amounts of LDL cholesterol leads to plaque growth and atherosclerosis.
- Some LDL cholesterol circulating through the bloodstream tends to deposit in the walls of arteries. This process starts as early as childhood or adolescence.
- White blood cells swallow and try to digest the LDL, possibly in an attempt to protect the blood vessels. In the process, the white blood cells convert the LDL to a toxic (oxidized) form.
- More white blood cells and other cells migrate to the area, creating steady low-grade inflammation in the artery wall.
- Over time, more LDL cholesterol and cells collect in the area. The ongoing process creates a bump in the artery wall called a plaque. The plaque is made of cholesterol, cells, and debris.
- The process tends to continue, growing the plaque and slowly blocking the artery.
An even greater danger than slow blockage is a sudden rupture of the surface of the plaque. A blood clot can form on the ruptured area, causing a heart attack.
So now that I was armed with the knowledge of what these numbers meant, how in the heck could I lower the number – or, at the very least, ensure they stayed where they were? The good folks at US News & World Report had some great information – far too much to include here – so I provided a basic breakdown of some of my favs, and the link will take you to the HUGE article 🙂
Some of the simplest ways to lower your LDL (bad cholesterol)
- Diet – The foundation of any cholesterol-lowering regimen is a balanced diet
- Exercise – Regular exercise is also critical. Some studies show that regular aerobic exercise for a period of about 12 weeks can modestly increase beneficial HDL cholesterol—between 5 and 10 percent, and more for some people
- Lose weight – This can lower LDL, though levels will go back up unless you make lasting dietary changes
- Limit saturated fats – Eating saturated fats—which are the main diet-linked cause of high cholesterol—tends to raise your HDL, but it also increases your LDL. These fats are mostly found in animal foods such as beef, lamb, poultry, pork, butter, cream, and milk, and in coconut and coconut oil, palm and palm kernel oil, and cocoa butter
- Avoid trans fats – which have been purged from many prepared foods but are found in small quantities in some animal products. They also are formed during the hydrogenation process of making margarine, shortening, and cooking oils. Trans fats can increase LDL and decrease HDL. Vegetable oils that are partially hydrogenated are the source of about 75 percent of trans fatty acids in the American diet
- Quit smoking – There are plenty of reasons to stop, but one that’s not widely known is that smoking has been shown to decrease HDL levels. Smoking also makes it harder to work out, which means it is less likely you’ll reach healthful cholesterol goals
I hope this information has been helpful. My final post about this topic will cover triglycerides. I know you just CAN’T WAIT, but you will have to 🙂