You just went to your General Physician for a check-up for the first time in 5 years and you’ve gained 30, 40, maybe even 50 pounds. Your blood pressure has skyrocketed, your blood work shows your total cholesterol is way too high, your LDL’s are through the roof, your HDL’s are way too low, your triglycerides show 5 years of entirely too much carbohydrate and/or alcohol consumption, and your blood glucose is so high you’re now considered a diabetic. What now?!? Congratulations, you have just taken the first step to owning your own body. Now that you have hard proof (via blood work) you have developed type II diabetes, are at risk for developing blood clots due to high LDL levels, and have high blood pressure you can make the necessary healthy, corrective lifestyle changes to get off medication and have peace of mind. Start by taking a deep breath. These numbers did not happen overnight nor will they be fixed overnight; you must realize this is a journey, not a destination.
The good news is by making a few corrective, healthy lifestyle changes you can see decreases in all of these numbers (and increase HDL), with only a few exceptions based on genetics. Ask yourself this one question: would you pull a rabid dog by his tail? I would certainly hope not and this same general principle applies to proactive wellness. Your total cholesterol is composed of LDLs, HDLs, and 20% of your triglyceride level. Let’s start with the “bad” cholesterol, your LDL levels. LDL cholesterol is the sticky stuff that causes the plaque build up in your veins which makes them less flexible and makes you more susceptible to heart attacks and strokes. Now that you know what the LDL cholesterol represents, what foods should you avoid eating that will cause an unwanted LDL level increase? To sum it up from a nutritional standpoint, foods that are high in saturated and trans fats should be limited and/or avoided. My article entitled “Let’s Get Down to the Fats” will have more detailed information regarding fats and refer to my chart on the home page for a list of foods high in saturated and trans fats. Furthermore, by incorporating more fiber (oatmeal, fruits, beans, vegetables) you can decrease your LDL levels. It has also been shown individuals who smoke cigarettes have higher LDL levels than those who do not; cut back on smoking the pack and get your LDL levels back in whack!
Now that the bad (LDL) cholesterol facts are out of the way, let’s focus on HDL (good) cholesterol. When you think of cholesterol, usually you think you want any and all forms of it as low as possible. This is a misconception! Your HDL cholesterol are considered GOOD because they will actually transport that nasty, sticky LDL cholesterol from your veins to the liver to be broken down and excreted. The awesome fact about HDL is after they become greater than 60mg/dL, you now have a negative risk factor for developing heart disease (that’s a really good thing)! Consuming foods high in HEART HEALTHY fats can increase HDL cholesterol. Remember, mono and polyunsaturated fats are the fats you want to consume! In addition to healthy fats, regular exercise will also play a HUGE role in increasing your HDL cholesterol. Again, my article entitled “Lets Get Down To The Fats” cover both the heart healthy and unwanted types of fat. It's not about eating less, it's about eating right. Replace those unhealthy fats with heart healthy fats and you will reap the benefits!
The key to making corrective, healthy lifestyle changes is to make sure you are exercising at least 30 minutes a day, five days per week; I can't emphasize that enough. 30 minutes of exercise is only 2% of your day; don’t make excuses, the quality of your life depends on it! Scientific studies show if you dedicate this small amount of time to exercise you will decrease your chances of all cause mortality by 34%! Exercise can also decrease your blood pressure by 8-10 points both systolic (the top number) and diastolic (the bottom number). Furthermore, exercise can help lower your LDL (bad cholesterol) and increase your HDL (good cholesterol). The icing on the cake (pun intended) is glucose is what fuels our muscles- this means exercise can also assist us in lowering our blood glucose levels! The fact of the matter is exercise is a very holistic medicine; rather than saying "I'm on medication for that," wouldn't you rather say "I'm no longer on medication for that?"
To prevent an overwhelming feeling of too much information in one article, I will post “Own Your Body Part 2” that will briefly recap cholesterol and cover triglycerides, blood glucose, and blood pressure in detail.