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Lipids and Heart Health

It's known that cholesterol and coronary heart disease have an enormous link, which is blamed for about 500,000 deaths every year in the United States. However, Sometimes the language about cholesterol that can be confusing.
This is a quick and easy guide to understand cholesterol and lipids.

Diagram to the Right Shows - Cholesterol plaque in artery (atherosclerosis) illustration. Top artery is healthy. Middle and bottom arteries show plaque formation, rupturing, clotting and blood flow occlusion.

Total Cholesterol
Total cholesterol is a test or measurement that provides the amount of lipids (fat) in the blood. In the total cholesterol is found HDL (high-density lipoprotein, Good Cholesterol) and LDL (low-density lipoprotein, Bad Cholesterol), as well as Triglycerides. The total cholesterol test helps to screen for heart disease risk or to aid in monitoring progress of those on a special diet or medication for high cholesterol.
Ranges of Total Cholesterol;

  • Desirable: Lower than 200 mg/dl
  • Borderline high: 200-239 mg/dl
  • High-risk: Greater than 240 mg/dl

HDL Cholesterol
HDL is known as the "good" cholesterol. The more HDL cholesterol you have, the lower the risk is for heart disease. HDL is believed to take extra cholesterol away from arteries, leaving less chance of clogging them.
Ranges of HDL cholesterol;

  • Desirable: Greater than 35 mg/dl

LDL Cholesterol
LDL is known as the "bad" cholesterol. The more LDL in the blood the higher the risk for blockage of the arteries. LDL cholesterol is monitored in those who have high total cholesterol level or risk factors for heart disease.
Ranges of LDL cholesterol;

  • Desirable: Less than 130 mg/dl
  • Borderline: 130-159 mg/dl
  • High-risk: Greater than 160 mg/dl

Triglyceride
Triglyceride is a lipid that helps store fat in the body. High triglyceride levels plays a role in heart disease and has been shown to increase risk of Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).
Ranges of triglycerides;

  • Desirable: Lower than 250 mg/dl

Assessing heart disease risk and your cholesterol should be done at lease annually by your doctor. If needed you and your doctor will develop a personal plan of action. Some individuals, like those with high total cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes or family history of heart disease, should have their cholesterols levels checked more frequently. Below are ways to keep cholesterol controlled:

  • Heart healthy eating
  • Exercising
  • Quit smoking
  • Lose weight if necessary
  • Limit alcohol

Heart-healthy eating
Small changes in your diet can reduce cholesterol and improve your heart health, even if you haven't been eating healthy in the past.

  • Eliminate Trans fats. Trans fats will increase LDL "bad" cholesterol and lowering the HDL "good" cholesterol. Trans fats can be found in fried foods and many commercial products, such as cookies, crackers and snack cakes. In the United States, if a food contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat in a serving, it can be labeled "trans fat-free."Read the ingredient list, and avoid foods with partially hydrogenated oils.
  • Increase Healthy fats. Omega-3 fatty acids have heart benefits, like increasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or "good") cholesterol, reducing triglycerides, and reducing blood pressure. Some types of fish — such as salmon, mackerel and herring — are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Other omega-3 fatty acids include walnuts, almonds and ground flaxseeds. Snacking on olives, avocado, and nuts is an easy way to increase healthy fat too. When having red meat make sure you choose Lean cuts, anything with "Bone" in the name or in the meat typically are high in fat. Low-fat dairy is a simple why to add flavor and can be s substitute for unhealthy snack choices.
  • Increase soluble fiber. There are two types of fiber — soluble and insoluble. Both have heart-health benefits, but soluble fiber also helps lower your LDL levels. You can add soluble fiber to your diet by eating oats and oat bran, fruits, beans, lentils, and vegetables.

You can find whey protein powders in health food stores and some grocery stores. Follow the package directions for how to use them.

Pump up your heart health by choosing foods that are low in sodium.

  • Most people eat much more sodium (salt) than they need. This can lead to health problems like high blood pressure. To lower the amount of sodium in your diet, follow these tips when you go food shopping:
  • Choose fresh instead of processed foods when you can.
  • Use the Nutrition Facts label to check the amount of sodium. Look for foods with 5% Daily Value (DV) or less. A sodium content of 20% DV or more is high
  • Look for foods labeled "low sodium," "reduced sodium," or "no salt added."

Low Sodium Food Shopping List

Exercise on most days of the week
Moderate physical activity helps lower "Bad" cholesterol and increases "good" cholesterol.  Work up to at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. Adding physical activity, even 10-minute, can help you begin to lose weight. Just be sure to keep it consistent. Consider:

  • Taking a brisk daily walk during your lunch hour
  • Riding your bike to work
  • Swimming laps
  • Playing a favorite sport

To stay motivated, find an exercise buddy or join a group. Any activity is helpful, even taking the stairs instead of the elevator or doing a few sit-ups between television commercials. Talk to your doctor about a sensible exercise plan for you. An active lifestyle helps all the lipids, keeps you trim and fit, and give you energy.

Quit smoking
If you smoke, stop. Quitting will improve cholesterol levels, within 20 minutes of quitting, your blood pressure and heart rate decrease. Within one year, your risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker. Within 15 years, your risk of heart disease is similar to someone who never smoked.

Lose weight
Easier said than done, but even a few extra pounds contributes to high cholesterol. Losing as little as 5 to 10 percent of weight can improve cholesterol levels. Assessing you're eating habits and daily routine is a great way to start. Everyone has challenges to weight loss but find ways to overcome them.

Small changes add up. To help avoid eating when bored or frustrated, take a walk outside before a walk to the kitchen. Replace purchased lunch with something healthier from home, not only will it save you. Snack on carrot sticks or air-popped popcorn instead of chips. Don't eat mindlessly.

And look for ways to incorporate more activity into your daily routine, such as using the stairs instead of taking the elevator or parking farther from your office.

Alcohol in moderation
For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger. Too much alcohol can lead to serious health problems, including high blood pressure, heart failure and stroke.

Sometimes healthy lifestyle changes aren't enough. If your doctor recommends medication to help lower your cholesterol, take it as prescribed, but continue your lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes can help you keep your medication dose low.



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