“my cholesterol is a little high

your body

can I drink a Gatorade?” ( Real life question that google showed me tonight).

You can drink Gatorade, which is sugar, food dye and water. Sugar is the devil, so you could just drink water and spare Yahoo Answers one more idiotic proposal to the peanut gallery. But, the purple rain kind is reallll delicious and you can sing Prince while you chug it. Either way I don’t blame you.

I thought I’d give a little ode to Cholesterol… dun dun dunn duhhhnnn. It just sounds scary.

Our bodies produce cholesterol naturally in the liver. We make all of the cholesterol that we need and excess gets introduced into our bodies though our diets: animal flesh (… a little tip I learned to make eating delicious meats less desirable) and dairy. Consuming trans fats and  saturated fats make your liver produce more Cholesterol.

Here’s why excess Cholesterol is bad. It builds up as plaque between your artery walls. Buzz word: atherosclerosis, which means the hardening of arteries. We like for our arteries to be nice an pliable, this is how our heart carries blood to the rest of our body. This plaque can cause total blockage of arteries when it breaks off, in the brain this could mean a stroke. In the heart it could mean a heart attack. Bad news hub. Here’s the breakdown.

LDL and HDL : say what? HDTV, yeah I like gardening. Home Delivery Service? Presents? WHHA?

Cholesterol does not dissolve in your blood so it has to be carried by lipoproteins. There are two types: Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) and High Density Lipoprotein (HDL).

LDL is  BAD because it contributes to the plaque that hardens and narrows your arteries (read heart attack and stroke).

HDL is GOOD because it helps remove the plaque from arteries, eating away at it carrying it back to the liver where it can break it down and dispose of it. High levels of this may serve protective functions and low levels are bad because you aren’t getting the benefits and possibly increasing your risk for heart attack.

Triglycerides are fat, we store them for ‘energy’, for when the proverbial famine actually arrives. High triglycerides correspond to atherosclerosis. High levels come from being overweight, a smoker, eating a high carb diet (who me?, never), being inactive, genetic disorders or other diseases.

Do you know your numbers? Are they written down? Can you get them from your doctor. Here’s vaguely what they mean. Beware that almost always the collective (sometimes dissenting… see below) medical opinion is that our “ideal” values are higher than what is really healthy.

mg/dL stands for milligram per deciliter, it’s a unit of measure for substances in liquid (here blood)

Total Cholesterol:
Below 200 mg/dL—— ideal  (good)
200-239 ——– borderline (bad)
240 + ———- high (worse)

LDL Levels: 

Below 100 mg/dL—— ideal (good)
100-129—— okay
130-159—— borderline high
160-189—– high (bad)
190 + ——– very high (worse)

HDL Levels:
(here is when higher is better) 

Below 40 mg/dL (men)—— bad
Below 50 (women)— bad

60 + (men & women)—– best

Triglycerides: 

Below 150 mg/dL—- ideal (good)
150-199 ——– borderline high
200-499——— high (bad)
500 + ———— very hight (worse)

Triglyceride levels respond very favorably to lifestyle and dietary changes. Your doctor is most concerned about your LDL level because it is linked the highest to heart disease. What can you do to make your numbers better? Check out this page from the Mayo Clinic.

Other info of interest:
Implications of new cholesterol guidelines on the overuse of Statins, from my good friends at NPR.

Side effects of Statins, weighing the pros and cons, again from the Mayo Clinic.

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