When you have your blood drawn for lab tests either as prescribed by your doctor or as part of a health fair, one of your options for those draws is blood chemistry profile. With this test you’ll get a good overview picture of your kidney and liver health, blood count and lipid profile. The lipid panel means you’ll get a measure of your HDL (high-density cholesterol), LDL (low-density cholesterol) and triglyceride levels. But what does this mean to you?
Let’s start with the basics. Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in your body and many foods. Your body needs it to build healthy cells and function properly. Too much cholesterol can accumulate in your body and cause plaques on your arteries. These plaques can block blood flow causing a heart attack or stroke.
We monitor two main types of cholesterol through blood work. LDL, “bad cholesterol” makes up the majority of the body’s cholesterol. LDL is known as “bad” cholesterol because having high levels can lead to a buildup in the arteries and result in heart disease. HDL, “good cholesterol” absorbs LDL and other cholesterol molecules and carries it back to the liver, which flushes it from the body. High levels of HDL, or “good” cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Here is a list of appropriate blood levels:
|Desirable Cholesterol Levels|
|Total cholesterol||Less than 200 mg/dL|
|LDL (“bad” cholesterol)||Less than 100 mg/dL*|
|HDL (“good” cholesterol)||40 mg/dL or higher|
|Triglycerides||Less than 150 mg/dL|
Treatment options for high cholesterol first start with TLC (therapeutic lifestyle changes). The first and most important lifestyle modification we encourage is to maintain a healthy weight. The important thing about weight loss is understanding it isn’t about short-term dietary changes. It’s about a lifestyle that includes healthy eating, regular physical activity, and balancing the number of calories you consume with the number of calories your body uses. Fewer calories in than calories expended is the way to lose weight. To better understand how many calories you need for your body and health concerns, see your primary care provider.
Increasing your physical exercise is another lifestyle modification essential to maintaining a healthy heart and keeping your weight stable which in turns prevents chronic illness. Studies have shown that 30 minutes of aerobic activity five times a week is beneficial as primary prevention of heart disease. It is also important to try to maintain your target heart rate while exercising. This can be calculated by counting your pulse for 10 seconds and multiply by 6 to find your beats per minute. You want to stay between 50 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. This range is your target heart rate. Your maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age. If you are taking blood pressure medications, your target heart rate may be different, and you should consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.
Another way to control high cholesterol is with medications. Statins are a commonly prescribed medication with great value. They have proven to reduce risk of heart attacks and strokes. These medications are essential for people with cholesterol resistant to TLC and/or people with moderate to high levels of cholesterol.
An alternative therapy for people with mild high cholesterol is Red Yeast Rice. Red yeast rice (RYR) is the product of yeast (Monascuspurpureus) grown on rice. It is a dietary staple in some Asian countries. It contains the same compound found in statins, (HMG-CoA) reductase inhibitor. Studies have shown this product to be effective for treatment of hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol). More specifically, decreases in total cholesterol (TC), LDL cholesterol (LDL-C), and triglycerides (TG) have been noted. Consult with your primary care provider to see if this therapy may be beneficial to you.
Hopefully this gives you a better understanding of cholestrol in general and how you can work to keep your cholesterol levels within normal ranges.
Anna Gunderson, PA-C is a nationally certified Physician Assistant. She works at the Driggs and Victor Health Clinics and is currently accepting new patients. Call (208) 354-2302 to make an appointment or visit tvhcare.org for more information on the services offered at Teton Valley Health Care.More