Tuesday, March 28, 2006


by Craig Ballantyne

Many readers are interested in more information on how to control their cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar.

So let's start with cholesterol first...

Now all these years people have been worried about high cholesterol levels. But in addition to lowering bad cholesterol, a new study shows that high levels of GOOD cholesterol should also be the focus of our efforts.

In fact, your levels of HDL could be the most important determinant of your risk for heart disease.

First, some definitions...

LDL (low-density lipoprotein): LDL is also known as the "bad" cholesterol. It is the cholesterol that builds up in your arteries, increasing your risk of heart disease.

HDL (high-density lipoprotein): HDL is also known as the "good" cholesterol. It helps clean out LDL from your arteries, and can decrease your risk of heart disease. If your HDL is not above 40 mg/dL, then you need to improve it and have it checked every year.

TC (total cholesterol): This is the total amount of cholesterol in the blood, including LDL, HDL, and VLDL. If your total cholesterol is 240 mg/dL or greater, you have a greater risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.

TC:HDL-C ratio: This is called the "total cholesterol to HDL ratio." It is used to give doctors an idea of how much total cholesterol a person has relative to the HDL level. The ratio is calculated by dividing the total cholesterol by the HDL. It is a good measure of heart disease risk.

Okay, now onto the latest findings...this recent study published in the American Heart Journal found that patients that had higher HDL levels had a lower risk of heart attacks. More specifically, people with higher HDL (by 10 mg/dL) had an 11% decrease in heart disease risk.

Okay...so what does that mean? Do everything you can to increase your HDL!

First, you need to get your HDL levels checked...so visit your doctor. And always check with your doctor before making big changes to your nutrition and exercise plan...especially if you are overweight, or otherwise at risk for lifestyle diseases.

Second, a good place to start improving your cholesterol levels is to simply lose weight and to start an exercise program (both aerobic exercise and resistance training will improve cholesterol levels).

And when it comes to achieving healthy cholesterol levels, here are many more specific actions that you should take:

- Eat 6 small meals per day rather than 2-3 large meals.

- Eat a handful of almonds per day (make sure they are not roasted in hydrogenated oils!)

- Eat more fiber by eating almonds, fruits, vegetables, oatmeal, and perhaps even supplement with glucomannan - Get a minimum of 35g of fiber per day

- Reduce your intake of saturated fats

- Eliminate all trans fats from your diet

- Build muscle mass. There's some evidence that strength-training exercises that build muscle mass can also improve HDL.

- Do intervals - these might be even more effective than regular cardio for increasing HDL

- Both Green Tea and fish oils might help improve cholesterol levels (by both increasing HDL and lowering LDL), but research is not conclusive.

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