All About Fats – How to Read your Cholesterol Report

Every patient in Zanjabee has his/her cholesterol checked every year. While many have stellar cholesterol numbers, many have lipid abnormalities. Both genes and lifestyle contribute to cholesterol profile. Cholesterol profile abnormalities can be of three types. Each has slightly different implications for disease and responds to different lifestyle regimen and medications.

High LDL (Bad Cholesterol)

High LDL deposits plaque inside the arteries and is a major risk factor for developing heart disease and stroke. Goal LDL is:

  • < 130 if you are healthy
  • < 100 if you have diabetes
  • ~70 if you have heart disease or have had a stroke

Lowering your LDL below 70 is associated with:

  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Preterm birth and low birth weight if your cholesterol is low while you are pregnant

Factors Elevating LDL

  • Hereditary
  • Overweight
  • Lack of exercise
  • Smoking
  • Diet rich in animal fats

Factors Lowering LDL

  • Quitting smoking
  • Eating more soluble fiber, found in oatmeal, beans, fruits and vegetables
  • Eating less saturated fats that is fat from animal products mostly meat and dairy products
  • Losing weight
  • Exercising at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week
  • Group of medications called Statins

Low HDL (Good Cholesterol)

Mops the arteries clean and protects against heart disease. It is especially important for women to have HDL of greater than 50. For men greater than 40 is acceptable but higher than 50 is desirable.

Factors Lowering HDL

  • Very low fat diets will lower HDL as well as LDL cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle

Factors Elevating HDL

  • Weight loss
  • Aerobic exercise
  • Smoking cessation
  • Niacin
  • Estrogen replacement for some post menopausal women

No food has been clearly shown to increase HDL but there are indications that the following foods are helpful:

  • Purple skinned fruits and juices e.g. purple grapes
  • Alcohol (particularly red wine) in moderation only. If you have elevated triglycerides, please do not use this method of increasing HDL cholesterol.
  • Foods with Omega 3 fatty Acids:
    • Fatty Fish like salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel and sea bass
    • Flaxseed (ground, of course)
    • Soy foods
    • Green leafy vegetables
    • Walnuts

High Triglycerides (Sugar Related Cholesterol)

High levels of triglycerides ( > 150 ) have been linked to increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

High Triglycerides (Sugar Related Cholesterol)

  • Diets rich high in carbohydrates, with carbohydrates accounting for more than 60% of the total energy intake, can increase triglyceride levels.
  • This correlation is stronger for the overweight (BMI >28) and those with insulin resistance (diabetics and per-diabetics).
  • Adverse changes associated with carbohydrate intake, including triglyceride levels, are stronger risk factors for heart disease in women than in men.

Factors Lowering Triglyceride

  • Aerobic Exercise
  • Diets low in sugar and refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta and rice
  • Omega-3 fatty acids from fish, flax seed oil, and other sources
  • Carnitine has the ability to lower blood triglyceride levels
  • Fibrates have been used to bring down triglycerides substantially
  • Heavy use of alcohol can elevate triglycerides levels