Lesson 101: Just read & process…

What is it? Cholesterol describes the fats that run through our veins, also known as lipids! There are several different types of lipids, I call them “the good, the bad and the ugly!”  HDLs are the good, LDLs & VLDLs are the bad and Triglycerides can certainly be ugly.  When you get your blood work done either by the doctor, lab or at a health screening event, you will find these names with numbers on the print out.

Total Cholesterol is a simple addition statement:

HDLs + LDLs + VLDLs = Total Cholesterol

HDLs, the good, are the cleansers of the bad. Directly impacted by cardiovascular exercise and other heart healthy habits like remaining smoke free! So, summing this up quickly, the more you work out the higher this number will be and a high HDL number is
optimal for protecting your body from coronary issues.

LDLs, one of the bad, are clogging lipids that stick to the walls of the artery. Directly impacted by your diet and how much of the good cholesterol your body has, this number can be lowered by bettering the food you eat (and of course, working out because that increases the cleaning cholesterol…yep, it all works together)! The better your food choices every day, the less likely you are to add to the clogging of your
arteries, Viola.

By eating more whole grains (oatmeal, multi grain breads, cereals,
pastas and brown rice) and vegetables then fruit, more fruit then meat, cheese
or dairy, you can change this number dramatically!
Meat, cheese and dairy
are heavy in fats, yep-even chicken, and clog the vascular system which is easily recognized as the arteries.

VLDLs fall into the lipid category as well, but there are usually far fewer of these and they are much ‘larger’ on the scale of “clogging the artery.”  I have seen this number high over the years and directly connected to the LDL, most of those folks were already consulting with their doctor. Upon occasion and assuming it to be genetic, this number is completely out of ratio and requires further education and attention from both doctor and patient.

Total Cholesterol/HDL ratio, or risk ratio, is the actual coronary health risk indicator!

Follow me here, you can have an ideal Total Cholesterol number (example: 160mg/dl); HOWEVER, if you do not have enough of the good stuff, HDLs, then your risk ratio indicates you as HIGH RISK for coronary disease. Conversely, you could be a person who makes “too much” Total Cholesterol (example: 220mg/dl); HOWEVER, if you are an exercise enthusiast -aerobic instructor, marathon runner, distance biker, etc. which increases your HDLs and have a great diet which lowers your LDLs, your risk ratio could put you in the LOW RISK category for coronary disease!

Every body makes cholesterol, some bodies make too much of them naturally and now you can discuss the actual risk ratio with your doctor; remember lifestyle and diet are the biggest factors for the majority of folks when it comes to having good health! Now you know about Total Cholesterol (HDLs, LDLs & VLDLs), but let’s talk about TRIGLYCERIDES.

TRIGLYCERIDES are a hot topic in world of health and wellness! This is a complicated topic  with so many scientific explanations that are intricate and interrelated. But simple understanding as follows can be used to understand the what & how of trigs.

Triglycerides are a fat storage system, a complicated cholesterol that is not measured in the Total Cholesterol number. Picture a closet, one door, several sections. The first section is easy to get to, the body naturally makes its own triglycerides, stored fat for energy. The second section, works together with the first, to store those fats for body functioning in times of need, instinctive protection. Your body needs some stored fat for times of illness and brain function if nourishment is minimal or nil. So every human makes and holds on to this form of energy. The third section of your storage unit is filled with unused energy for excess. Your body stores the extras that do not get used up as energy in here too.

Sidebar: High triglycerides are on the rise. Eating too much and moving too little. If you drink a 20 oz. pop or sports drink and then sit at your desk, well, you’ve flooded your body with sugar, calories to be used for energy and then you sat still.  Your body naturally stores this up in the form of triglycerides because your body trusts that if you put it in there then you must need it…eventually. Never using this intake for energy expenditure, and continuing to flood your system with more unused calories day in and day out simply crams that “storage unit” full. It’s a highly sensitive system…teachable moment here- one ‘heavy’ meal can make this number jump quickly; however, by returning to a good workout schedule and healthy diet with good amounts of fiber, low in processed sugars (or alcohol) and heavy fats, the number can fall fairly quickly too. Continued over indulgence and poor activity levels leave your body without the reprieve and triglycerides will continue to quickly climb and stick above the recommended 150mg/dl level! 

Simply stated though, you can lower this stream of fat that clogs
your arteries by lowering excess calories daily, especially those calories from fried foods, simple sugars and over processed foods with man made preservatives. 
 Working out regularly positively helps the body by not having to store the excess calories because it simply uses them in the workout!

If you don’t work off the calories put in your body then you will quickly
store this energy in the closet as excess.  Remember, it’s a sensitive system so a heavy fat meal will flood the veins with a thick coating of fat and since this is not readily used (aka: a workout soon after the meal, who does that after eating fried chicken and drinking beers?) it stores up. When Triglyceride numbers are over 450mg/dl in your blood work then an LDL reading cannot even be calculated! Yuck and yikes! 

Sidebar: Remembering that your body is one big machine, if these stores clog the vascular system too much several disasters can occur, a clogged artery can lead to a “sudden” stroke or heart attack. Slower changes come from clogging arteries over time in the form of chronic heart disease or metabolic syndrome also called Pre Diabetes, leading to Diabetes if habits don’t change (see Diabetes). 

Poor coronary health is usually directly tied to diet and lifestyle…you do have a choice of daily activity and eating habits.Take control of your Total Cholesterol with strong, healthy lifestyle habits that include diet and exercise. You might also head off other health issues this way so that they never become a problem.

As an advocate for taking responsibility of your own health through as much lifestyle management as possible, I believe we all have to be better educated consumers of medicine, it is a necessity in our current world.  You have to question with knowledge, that is what the Internet is good for and behave with integrity towards your own health while respecting your doctor’s incredible understanding of the human body. Your physician relationship will grow and you will be better for it as you age.

Check out His story of self study led him to a medical reality check that has sparred a movement towards self help and medical relationships!


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