Tag Archives: LDL cholesterol

The Rising Triglyceride Menace

Heart diseases are on the rise amongst Asians…blame it on our genes. Lots of studies which have been concluded or are underway have linked Asian genes with storing more fat (on same diet and a healthier lifestyle) compared to Americans. Triglycerides (TG), found in our food and blood can create havoc with our health. Having high levels of TG in blood (also called hypertriglyceridemia) is a common problem amongst Indians.  When the TG levels are too high, these fats may put you at risk for heart disease, stroke and other health problems. Most often, having high triglycerides has no warning signs.

The good news: there is a simple test to find high TG and treatments are available.

It is unclear if high TG alone can cause cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke) because they do not directly cause the formation of plaque. Plaque is a fatty deposit which can block blood vessels and cause heart attack /stroke.

High TG can affect more than your heart and blood vessels. It can raise the risk for pancreatitis (inflammation of pancreas: a gland behind stomach that makes insulin) and prolonged pancreatitis can also lead to diabetes.

Who is at Risk?

Triglycerides normally increase with age. Risk factors include:

  • Lifestyle: Being overweight or obese; Not getting enough exercise; Drinking too much alcohol
  • Inherited
  • Type 2 diabetes or the metabolic syndrome
  • Pregnancy
  • Medicines: like birth control pills, hormone therapy, steroids for conditions such as asthma and arthritis, Certain cholesterol-lowering drugs

Test for high triglycerides

A blood test called lipid profile measures triglycerides and cholesterol. This test should be done after fasting (not eating or drinking anything but water) for at least 12 hours. Adults should get this screening test every five years or sooner. If you have diabetes, a family history of high triglycerides, or other risk factors, you may need screening more often, according to the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Guidelines.

The NCEP defines borderline-high triglycerides as 150 to199 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) and high triglycerides as 200 to 499 mg/dL. Very high triglycerides are 500 mg/dL or higher. Most people with high triglycerides have levels from 150 to 999 mg/dL, which puts them at risk for heart disease. Above 2,000 mg/dL poses a high risk for pancreatitis.

Treatment for high triglycerides

The first step for lowering triglycerides is to lose weight if you are overweight, exercise often and eat a healthy diet low in saturated (bad) fat and sugar. Also, limit the amount of refined, processed grains you eat, such as white bread, white rice, and pasta made from refined flour. Include lots of fiber in the diet which helps in feeling full as well as removal of excessive fats.

Follow your doctor’s advice about limiting intake of alcohol, which raises triglycerides in some people. Besides these lifestyle changes, you may also need drug treatment to lower TG.

References and suggested read:

http://www.japi.org/february2004/U-137.pdf

http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/index.htm#chol

Cholesterol: How much is too much?

Cholesterol, a term everyone despises. But how and at what levels does cholesterol influences your health. Read on…..

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a form of fat our body uses to protect nerves, make cell tissues and produce certain hormones. Internally it is made by liver cells and we also get cholesterol from the food we eat (like eggs, meats and dairy products).

Are there different types of cholesterol?

Yes. Cholesterol travels through blood in different types of bundles, called lipoproteins. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) delivers cholesterol to the blood and High-density lipoprotein (HDL) removes cholesterol from the bloodstream. This explains why too much LDL cholesterol is bad for the body, and why a high level of HDL is good.

When should you start having cholesterol levels checked?

You can’t tell if you have high cholesterol without having it checked as there are no physical signs of the same. All adults, 20 years of age and older should have their cholesterol checked every 5 years. If your cholesterol level is high or you have other risk factors for heart disease, you may need to have it checked more often.

A blood test known as a lipid profile is administered to get cholesterol checked.

What does your cholesterol level mean?

Total cholesterol

  • Less than 200 mg/dL is best.
  • 200-239 mg/dL is borderline high.
  • 240 or more means you are at risk for heart disease.

LDL cholesterol

  • Below 100 mg/dL is ideal for people at high risk of heart disease.
  • 100-129 mg/dL is near optimal.
  • 130-159 mg/dL is borderline high.
  • 160 or more means you are at risk for heart disease.

HDL cholesterol

  • Less than 40 mg/dL means you are at high risk for heart disease.
  • 60 or higher greatly reduces your risk of heart disease.

Why is a high cholesterol level unhealthy?

While some cholesterol is needed for good health, too much cholesterol in your blood can increase your risk for heart disease, including heart attack or stroke. Your body may store the extra cholesterol in your arteries (blood vessels). Over time, this build up can become hard and make your arteries narrow or might even completely block an artery. If this blocked artery supplies blood to heart, a heart attack can occur or stroke in case this blocked artery supplies blood to brain.

What can I do to improve my numbers?

It is a good idea to have your cholesterol checked regularly if there is a problem. Here are some steps you can take to improve your cholesterol levels:

  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Exercise regularly. Brisk walking for 30 minutes/day is a good goal
  • Lose weight if needed. Losing just 2.5 to 4.5 kg will show favorable changes in your lipid profile.
  • Avoid saturated (red meat, whole milk dairy products, coconut oil, cocoa butter) and Trans fats (fried foods, commercially baked goods, processed foods, margarines). Also limit your overall cholesterol intake to less than 300 mg per day and 200 mg if you have heart disease.
  • Eat a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet with plenty of fresh veggies, whole grains, and fruits
  • Include good amount of ω-3 and ω-6 fatty acids in the diet as food (flaxseed, canola oil, walnuts, soybean oil, lettuce, broccoli, spinach, vegetable oils like corn, sesame, sunflower) or supplements

Cholesterol is also affected by blood pressure and blood glucose. If your blood glucose or blood pressure is high, your cholesterol numbers may be high as well.

Do I need to take medicines to lower cholesterol?

Depending on your risk factors, if healthy eating and exercise don’t work to lower your cholesterol level, your doctor may suggest medicine.

Talk to your doctor about whether you may be at higher risk for diabetes and heart disease. Then take steps to lower your risk so you can live a longer, healthier life.