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Health ABCs from a PA-C: Cholesterol 101

It’s health fair season, and I know many of you will have your discounted lab draws done this week at Teton Valley Hospital. 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.  AHA graphic physical activity

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.

Don’t forget that TVHC’s discounted lab draws run now through Saturday, September 13. Remember to fast for 8-10 hours prior to your draw if you plan to get the blood chemistry profile (which includes lipids). You can have your results read at our annual Harvest Health Fair Saturday, September 27 at Driggs Elementary. I’ll be there and I hope to see you at this important community event!

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.

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Health ABCs from a PA-C: The latest BEAT on high blood pressure

High blood pressure is a common medical concern. It’s often referred to as “the silent killer” because it causes much damage to the heart before symptoms are felt. Luckily, it’s easy to diagnose with regular wellness checks. Annual wellness exams are generally covered by insurance, too.

What is normal?

In a normally healthy person, high blood pressure (hypertension) is defined as > 140 (systolic value)/ 90 (diastolic value) from two random readings. Mild hypertension is defined as systolic value of 140-159 and diastolic value of 90-99.

Systolic pressure measures the peak pressure in the arteries when the ventricles contract, and diastolic pressure measures the minimum amount of pressure in the arteries when the ventricles are filling with blood. Both numbers are important, and any elevation in either number is used to diagnose hypertension.

Action steps

If you have mild hypertension, you may wonder if you should start prescription therapy. Evidence shows that treating mild hypertension reduces your risk for a heart attack in the future. But you have options to try before starting one of the many pharmaceuticals.

  1. Yoga has shown to improve blood pressure if practiced regularly once daily for 6-12 months.
  2. Daily meditation for at least 20 minutes has shown to reduce blood pressure.
  3. Garlic has a modest effect on your blood pressure and can be found in pill form.
  4. Fish Oil lowers triglycerides, which improves blood vessel health, which in turn reduces cardiovascular risk.

Consult with your provider to see what therapy is best for you.

Monitoring your blood pressure is an important aspect of staying healthy. Everyone should have at least one general wellness check (which screens for medical problems such as high blood pressure) with a provider annually.

With the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, most insurers are now required to cover an annual wellness exam. Check with your insurer to confirm you benefits prior to making an appointment.

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.

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Becoming Rubilicious: What color should my tutu be?

The past couple weeks have been quite exciting. I have started up walking in the evenings because summer is here and I want to take advantage of every minute of the outdoors as possible. It is so pretty with great views of the mountains. I can get some fresh air and vitamin D and–my favorite–it is FREE to walk and jog. I don’t have to worry about monthly dues or having the right equipment. All I have to do is get out, walk and enjoy.

Our Employee Wellness program at Teton Valley Health Care also encourages us to get out and enjoy the mountain air. We’ve been doing some group hikes after work, and we went on our first hike of the season earlier this month.

I’d never been on Sheeps Bridge trail in Teton Canyon. It was a great, mellow hike with wildflowers in bloom. This was a great teaser and warm up for my ultimate goal this summer, to hike Table Mountain.

While the rest of my coworkers (and their dogs) had a fairly uneventful trek in and out of the Canyon, my trip was not with out a minor technological mishap. As we  got to the end of the trail, we walked around the creek for a little bit before turning back. The creek water was gushing. It looked so beautiful and welcoming. So naturally I went to feel the water, and as I bent down to touch it, I noticed something falling out of my shirt. Instantly, I knew what it was. I said to myself “Oh, there goes my phone!”

 

Here I am at the bridge, before I lost my phone!

Here I am at the bridge, before I lost my phone!

But I didn’t mind too much, really. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so light about losing something so expensive. The whole thing was quite funny, if you ask me. Maybe my lack of reaction was because I’m trying to simplify my life with less expensive things … Well, maybe not. The next day I went out and bought another expensive phone!

My family also came to visit us recently from Arizona. They stayed with us for two weeks. It was fun having them here. They enjoyed our small town Fourth of July style (meaning just the parade, lol). I was sad to see them leave, but it’s always great to see family!

Last weekend I did the Tin Cup Challenge. I completed my second 5K!

My wellness goals for the summer include:
1. Do three 5K (2 down 1 to go. YAY!)
2. Try to hike up to Table Mountain (meaning go as far as I can) by the end of the summer

My son, Colby, and I celebrated at the Tin Cup finish line.

My son, Colby, and I celebrated at the Tin Cup finish line.

I did run most of the Tin Cup 5K, I proudly can say. As I was getting tired, my little bad angel started to tell me “you can’t do it, just give up” but then my good angel started to tell me “yes you can, you are almost there, just think of your goals and how far you have come.” So then my will power kicked in and I was able to finish out at 40 minutes, 12 seconds. Not bad for a newbie, right!

Don’t forget you can still donate to your favorite valley nonprofit through the TCC until July 28. The Teton Valley Hospital Foundation is a participating nonprofit, and the organization would be grateful for your support.

I’m registered to do my third 5K on Aug. 16, which I can’t wait for because it is a neon color run (way too fun!).

I need your help on choosing what color tutu I should make for the neon color run! Send me your ideas on the TVHC facebook page, or leave a comment on this post below, and tag your suggestions, #rubistutu. I have to stay stylish, even when I run!

Disclaimer: This blog discusses my personal wellness goals and is in no way a soapbox to tell anyone else how to eat, exercise and/or live their lives.

 

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