Thursday, 4 April 2013

Hello Cholesterolville - - just visiting!

This week I added yet another metric to my list of bodily attributes and measurements that I track on a regular basis - - my cholesterol.

I obtained a CardioChek cholesterol tester by way of the U.S. to see if I could test my cholesterol in the comfort of my home.  I realize that any home test will necessarily be less accurate than a doctor's test, but I wanted to know directionally how my cholesterol levels were, so that I could know whether to rush to the Medicenter, or stay the course.

Balancing against my generally low fat and healthy diet is the fact that the Matriarch has high cholesterol and high triglycerides, to the point where she requires medication to keep her numbers in check.  Some people just have naturally high cholesterol numbers, and this is something that I wanted to check.  I was curious to see if I inherited high cholesterol along with the pre-disposition towards diabetes.

Before I did the test I read up a bit on cholesterol.  According to the National Institutes of Health, cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that’s found in all cells of the body. We require cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help digest foods.

Cholesterol travels through the bloodstream in small packages called lipoproteins, made of fat (lipid) on the inside and proteins on the outside.  Two kinds of lipoproteins carry cholesterol throughout your body: low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL).  LDL cholesterol sometimes is called “bad” cholesterol. A high LDL level leads to a buildup of cholesterol in  arteries.  HDL cholesterol sometimes is called “good” cholesterol, because it carries cholesterol from other parts of the body back to the liver, which removes excess cholesterol from the body.

So much for the science lesson.  How much cholesterol should a person have?  The Mayo Clinic provides a useful guide to recommended cholesterol figures, excerpted below:

With total cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides, the lower the number the better.  With HDL, the higher the number the better. 

My figures this morning were as shown in the table below:

I am pleased to say that these results mean green lights across the board - - there is no sign that I have inherited the Matriarch's high triglycerides or high cholesterol issues, which is very good news. 

While I was looking at cholesterol numbers and how to reduce cholesterol, I noted some of the top foods to lower cholesterol, including:

  • Oatmeal, oat bran, and high fibre foods
  • Fish and omega-3 fatty acids 
  • Unsalted walnuts, almonds and other nuts
  • Chickpeas, lentils, soybeans and kidney beans
  • Avocado
  • Garlic
  • 1 glass of alcohol per day (women) / 2 glasses of alcohol per day (men) [yipee!]
Other ways to lower cholesterol include regular physical activity and losing weight.  Fortunately, I am already doing both of those things, which may also explain why my cholesterol numbers are in a healthy range.  (I think it sucks that the solution to so many health problems is to lose weight - - what happened to health at any size??)

I think with these test results I will not need to test my cholesterol any more frequently than once a month, but it's good to get this baseline read on the books.  I am also glad to be aware of some of the foods I should be incorporating into my regular diet, like avocado, beans, and, apparently, booze. 

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