On March 20, 2020 I published the first article about health and wellness and understanding lab test results. This post is a follow-up to that article. No post would be complete without a legal disclaimer; I am not a doctor nor am I giving medical advice – I am simply sharing thoughts from my journey to creating a stronger body and mind!
In my last article I suggested some of the basic readings your doctor should ask for when sending you for routine blood panels. They included the following;
- Lipid Panel – Total Cholesterol, Triglycerides, HDL (good cholesterol), LDL (bad cholesterol), Risk Ratio, HS-CRP (C Reactive Protein)
- White Blood Cell Count, Red Blood Cell Count, Hemoglobin, Hematocrit
- Glucose, Sodium, Potassium, Chloride, Calcium, CO2, BUN, Creatine
- eGFR, Magnesium, Uric Acid, Protein, Albumin
- HGBA1C, Insulin, eAG
- Cortisol, IGF-1, FSH, LSH, Free Testosterone, Estradiol, Progesterone, DHEA
- Vitamin D, Vitamin B-12, Folate, Ferritin
- Estrone, PSA
Now let’s do a quick review of why these readings are important and how they can help guide you towards a healthier life!
Everyone knows about cholesterol so I won’t harp on this too much. Yes, your total cholesterol should ideally be below 200, but some cholesterol is actually good for you. Your total cholesterol is calculated by adding your HDL plus you LDL, and adding 20% of your triglycerides level. It can act much like a lubricant for your blood, as well as produce Vitamin D. It’s even an important building block for hormones. But yes, too much cholesterol is a bad thing because it leads to the buildup of plaque.
LDL, or low density lipoproteins, are also known as your Bad cholesterol. Ideally your LDL level should be less than 100 mg/dl as elevated levels of LDL will increase the likelihood of clogging in your arteries. Elevated LDL levels are caused by a diet high in saturated fats and trans fats.
HDL, or high density lipoproteins, are also known as your Good cholesterol. Ideally your HDL level should be above 50 mg/dl…and the higher the better! HDL attacks the LDL in your blood and actually helps scrub your artery walls. A plant-based diet has been proven to increase HDL levels, and lower LDL levels and should include foods like avocados, olive oil, fruits, and whole grains.
Triglycerides are another type of fat that is carried in the blood. Ideally your triglyceride level will be under 150mg/dl as increased triglyceride levels have been linked to diabetes and heart disease. If you regularly consume more calories than you burn, your body stores these as triglycerides or fat, to use later for energy. High triglyceride can also lead to heart disease, diabetes, and even a hardening of your artery walls known as arteriosclerosis.
A Risk Ratio is calculated by dividing your total cholesterol by your HDL number. For example, my total cholesterol was 185 and my HDL was 53, producing a Risk Ratio of 3.49. According to the American Heart Association your risk ratio should be below 5, with an ideal level of 3.5. According to the Framingham study, a report often used by doctors to assess a patient’s risk level for heart disease, men have double the risk of heart disease if their risk level reaches 9.6, and women have double the risk of their level reaches 7.
What can I do to lower my total cholesterol? For sure, diet and exercise are the two most important factors which can have an immediate impact on your heart health. If you smoke, quit. It’s as simple as that. Did you know that one egg has 186 mg of cholesterol? Most people should limit their daily cholesterol intake to 300 mg, and under 200 mg for those at higher risk. In parting, here are a few tips to help lower your cholesterol (and LDL) and increase your HDL. Foods high in antioxidants help lower cholesterol and can be found in blueberries, strawberries, pecans, artichokes, beans, cabbage, kale, spinach and beets. These are just of few of the things you can add to your diet in moderation! Next time, we will continue going through some of the other suggested levels mentioned above. Please follow my blog on my website to learn more as I continue to document my journey to better Health and Wellness Over age 50!