Tag Archives: good cholesterol

Cholesterol Defined

Understanding Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy substance made in your liver. Your body needs it to build your cells’ walls, digest fat, and make some hormones. Every day your liver makes enough for what your body needs, so you don’t need to add extra to your diet.

From hamburgers to cheese, cholesterol hides in some of our favorite foods. The average American man eats 337 milligrams of it each day, which is 37 milligrams more than the American Heart Association says is healthy.

Although 37 milligrams doesn’t seem like much, in a week, that adds up to 259 extra milligrams. A diet high in fat and cholesterol is the main reason for heart disease, which is the #1 cause of death in the United States.

Bad cholesterol can happen at any age to anyone, regardless of shape, size, or gender.

Guidelines

Total Cholesterol Level

Category

Less than 200 mg/dL

Good

200-239 mg/dL

Borderline High

240 mg/dL or higher

High

LDL (Bad) Cholesterol Level

Category

Less than 100 mg/dL

Best

100-129 mg/dL

Good

130-159 mg/dL

Borderline High

160 mg/dL or higher

High

HDL (Good) Cholesterol Level

Category

60 mg/dL or higher

Best

Less than 40 mg/dL

Too Low

Via The American Heart Association

Talk to your doctor to find out your numbers. The sooner you know them, the sooner you can plan for better health.

Know Your Heart Meds

Your Meds and Your Heart

Know Your Heart Meds

You don’t need to be an expert on your drugs, that’s what your doctor’s for, but you should ask questions and know the basics about your heart meds.

Whether it’s a pill for high cholesterol or your blood pressure medicine, make sure you know the answers to these questions:

  • What’s the name of my medicine?
  • What does it do?
  • What are its side effects?
  • What can I do to reduce those side effects?
  • How does this drug work with other drugs, dietary supplements, foods, or drinks?
  • How much is a one dose?
  • When’s the best time to take this medicine, like when you wake up, with breakfast, or before bed?
  • How long will I take this medicine?
  • What should I do if I miss a pill?

Helpful Terms for Understanding Your Blood Pressure Heart Meds

Blood vessels move blood through your body. These are the types of blood vessels:

  • Arteries – These carry blood away from your heart
  • Capillaries – These connect your arteries to your veins and help move water and chemicals between your blood and tissues.
  • Veins – These carry blood from your capillaries back to your heart

Did you know? If you laid all the blood vessels of an average adult in a line, it would stretch over 100,000 miles.

Kinds of Blood Pressure Heart Meds

Blood pressure meds fall into 11 different classes, but they all have the same goals, to lower and control your blood pressure.

Classes

How It Works

Possible Side Effects

Diuretics Help your body flush extra salt and water through your urine.
  • More trips to the
    bathroom
  • Low potassium
Beta-Blockers Reduce your heart rate and how much blood it pumps to lower your blood pressure.
  • Drowsiness
  • Low heart rate
  • Decreased sexual
    ability
ACE Inhibitors (Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme) Narrow your arteries and make you produce less angiotensin, so that your blood vessels can open up to lower your blood pressure.
  • Dry cough
  • High potassium levels
Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers Block your blood vessels from angiotension, so that your blood vessels can open up to lower your blood pressure.
  • High potassium levels
Calcium
Channel Blocker
Prevents calcium from entering the muscle cells of your heart and arteries, which makes your heart’s job easier, and helps your blood vessels open up to lower your blood pressure.
  • Low heart rate
  • Uneven or rapid heartbeat
  • Constipation
  • Ankle swelling
Alpha-Blockers Reduce nerve impulses to your blood vessels to let blood pass more easily.
  • Headache
  • Pounding heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Weight gain
  • Small decreases in bad cholesterol
Central
Agonists
Decrease your blood vessels’ ability to narrow, which also helps to lower blood pressure.
  • Anemia
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Decreased sexual
    ability
  • Fever

Via the American Heart Association.

Kinds of Cholesterol Heart Meds

Depending on the type, cholesterol meds help:

  • Lower your bad cholesterol.
  • Lower your triglycerides, a fat in your blood that raises your risk of heart disease.
  • Increase your good cholesterol, which guards against heart disease.

Types of Cholesterol Meds

How It works

Possible Side Effects

Statins
Altoprev (lovastatin)
Crestor (rosuvastatin)
Lescol (fluvastatin)
Lipitor (atorvastatin)
Mevacor (lovastatin)
Pravachol (pravastatin)
Zocor (simvastatin)
Lower bad cholesterol and triglycerides and cause small increases in good cholesterol.
  • Constipation
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Cramps
  • Muscle soreness
  • Muscle pain
  • Weakness
  • Interaction with grapefruit juice
Bile Acid Binding Resins
Colestid (colestipol)
Questran (cholestyramine/ sucrose)
Welchol (colesevelam)
Lower bad cholesterol.
  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Upset stomach
  • Gas
  • May increase triglycerides
Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitor
Zetia (ezetimibe) Lowers bad cholesterol, and causes small decrease in triglycerides and small increase in good cholesterol.
  • Stomach pain
  • Exhaustion
  • Muscle soreness
Combination Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitor and Statin
Vytorin (ezetimibe-simvastatin) Lowers bad cholesterol and triglycerides and increases good cholesterol.
  • Stomach pain
  • Exhaustion
  • Gas
  • Constipation
  • Cramps
  • Muscle soreness
  • Muscle pain
  • Weakness
  • Interaction with grapefruit juice
Fibrates
Lofibra (fenofibrate)
Lopid (gemfibrozil)
TriCor (fenofibrate)
Lower triglycerides and increases good choleterol.
  • Upset stomach
  • Stomach pain
  • Gallstones
Niacin
Niaspan (prescription niacin) Lowers bad cholesterol and triglycerides and increases good cholesterol.
  • Flushed face and neck
  • Upset stomach
  • Throwing up
  • Diarrhea
  • Joint pain
  • High blood sugar
  • Peptic ulcers
Combination Statin and Niacin
Advicor (niacin-lovastatin) Lowers bad cholesterol and triglycerides and increases good cholesterol.
  • Flushed face and neck
  • Dizziness
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Interaction with grapefruit juice
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Lovaza (prescription omega-3 fatty acid supplement)
Vascepa (Icosapent ethyl)
Lowers triglycerides.
  • Burping
  • Fishy taste
  • Increased infection risk

Via The Mayo Clinic

When Should I Take My Heart Meds?

Your body’s inner clock can affect how well some medications work. Since, you can’t read your body’s clock though, researchers have studied how well heart meds work when they’re taken at different times of the day.

According to a clinical trial from Medscape, blood pressure meds are most effective when taken at night. The random trial tested the effect of taking blood pressure meds at bedtime versus in the morning.

It found that treatment at bedtime was the most cost-effective and simplest strategy to reach the right blood pressure when sleeping and of getting a normal 24-hour blood pressure pattern.”

It also estimated that each 5-mm-Hg decrease in overnight blood pressure reduced the risk of heart events by 14%.

Of course, you should always talk to your doctor before you make a change to your meds or their schedule. You can also learn more about the importance of taking your heart meds regularly and on-time in our Health section.

Schedule Your Doctor's Appointment

Getting the Most Out of Your Doctor’s Appointment

Scheduling Your Doctor’s Appointment

Prevention is important to maintaining good health, so it is important to know what you need each year at your doctor’s appointment.

Blood Pressure

This should happen at every doctor’s appointment, even if you don’t currently have high blood pressure, to track your levels over time.

Flu Shot

This yearly shot protects you and those you care about from the flu.

Yearly Blood Tests

You should get these blood tests at your yearly physical doctor’s appointment:

Microalbumin

This yearly test can detect early signs of kidney damage.

Dental Exam

You should set up this kind of doctor’s appointment with your dentist every 6 months for a regular cleaning.

Dilated Eye Exam

This yearly doctor’s appointment is when your eye doctor puts eye drops into your pupil so they can get a better view of the back of your eye.

Pneumococcal Shot

This one-time shot prevents blood, brain, and lung infections, like pneumonia, caused by a certain bacteria.

HbA1c

Those with diabetes should have this test at doctor’s appointments 2 to 4 times a year to help track their blood sugar levels long-term.

Foot Exam

This should happen at every doctor’s appointment for those with diabetes.

At Your Doctor’s Appointment

Ask for help.

Never be afraid to ask your doctor for advice. They want to help you be your best!

  • Prepare – Organize your questions ahead of time, and feel free to write them down if you’re afraid of forgetting anything.
  • Be Specific – Detailed information can help your doctor make your treatment plan and make sure it is working for you.
  • Tell the Truth – Be honest and direct with your doctor. Sharing information about how you feel will help you stay healthy.

Ask questions.

Not sure what to ask at your doctor’s appointment? Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What’s my blood pressure, cholesterol, and health goals?
  • How frequently should I check my blood pressure?
  • What lifestyle changes can I make to lower my blood pressure and cholesterol? Should I start a healthy diet or exercise plan?
  • What are the common side effects of my meds? Will any of my other meds, supplements, or foods interact with any of my meds?

Stay calm.

Do you get nervous or anxious when you go to doctor’s appointments? You’re not alone, and it can actually cause your blood pressure to rise while you’re there. Research shows that about 20% of patients with mild cases of high blood pressure see their blood pressure rise at doctor’s appointments. This is sometimes called white-coat syndrome.

Track your blood pressure at home and compare readings with those taken in the office to see if this is happening to you. Take these readings with you to your next doctor’s appointment and talk to them about it to make sure they get an accurate account of your blood pressure.

And once they know, your doctor can also help calm your fears, like by explaining exactly what they’re doing as they go.

Healthy Eating for Your Heart

Healthy Eating and Exercise for Your Heart

You can reduce your risk of heart disease and lower your blood pressure and cholesterol with 2 easy lifestyle changes: healthy eating and exercise.

Healthy Eating

Healthy eating habits can help you lower 3 of the major risk factors for heart attacks, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and obesity.

Tips to Help with Healthy Eating

  • Eat a variety of fruits, veggies, grains, and dairy, which are all good for you in the right portions, and they keep your diet from getting boring. Use MyPlate to learn more about healthy  eating and portions of these foods.
  • If you keep track of the calories you take in and burn, you can balance them to keep a healthy weight.
  • Avoid foods that are high in calories and low in nutrition, like soda and candy.
  • Limit the foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol that you eat, like full-fat dairy, vegetable oil, and egg yolks.
  • Use smaller plates, which has been shown to help people eat smaller portions.
  • Don’t deny yourself the foods you love, just enjoy them in moderation.
  • Don’t eat more than 2,400 milligrams of salt a day.

Soda and Healthy Eating

The amount of soda Americans drink has risen 135% over the last 30 years.

A study from the American Heart Association found middle aged people who drink as little as one soda a day, diet or regular, are at least 40% more likely to develop risk factors for heart disease.

This could be because people who drink sodas are more likely to have a sweet-tooth and eat other sugary food.

Cutting down on soda both lowers the sugar, empty calories, and salt you’re taking in. Stick to water instead.

Say “No” to Trans Fats

Trans fats hide in a lot of prepackaged foods. Like saturated fats, they raise your bad cholesterol  and lower your good cholesterol levels, increasing your chances of heart disease.

Learn to avoid them for healthy eating:

  • Margarine: Choose margarine in a tub, which has the least trans and saturated fats.
  • Baking Mixes: These can have fat in them that you don’t know about. Baking from scratch can help you cut back and control what’s in your treats.
  • Soups: Both dried and canned soups have trans fats and lots of sodium. Try making your own with fresh veggies and meat.
  • Fast Food: Almost everything in the drive-thru has something bad for you in it. Order grilled chicken and skip the fries.
  • Frozen Foods: Even if it says low fat, it can still have trans fat. Choose frozen foods with the fewest grams of total fat.
  • Chips and Crackers: Go for baked chips, low-fat crackers, or fat-free alternatives like pretzels.
  • Breakfast Foods: Choose cereals that have no fat, and breakfast and granola bars that are low in fat.
  • Toppings, Dips, and Condiments: Wherever you can, sub a low-fat alternative, like oil and vinegar instead of a ranch dressing and low-fat milk instead of cream.

Alcohol and Your Heart

Drinking a lot of alcohol on a regular basis can affect your blood pressure and cholesterol. While a little alcohol every day, like a glass of red wine, may have some minor health benefits, heavy drinking can cause a number of health problems.

Heavy drinking can raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of stroke and heart disease. Alcohol keeps the liver from making hormones that help control blood pressure. Heavy drinkers can lower their systolic blood pressure by 2 to 4 points just by cutting back.

Some studies do show that moderate drinking is linked to good cholesterol levels. Stick to no more than 2 drinks daily for men younger than 65, and one for women or anyone over the age of 65.

You don’t have to give up your favorite beverages, just drink them in moderation.

Healthy Eating During the Holidays

The average adult will eat nearly 3,000 calories during a typical holiday meal, and that doesn’t include snacks, appetizers, or dessert. Use these healthy eating tips to cut back:

  • Never go to a party hungry. Before you leave, eat a light snack full of fiber and protein so you don’t binge at the dessert table.
  • Prepare a healthy side. Substitute skim milk or egg whites in  recipes to lower fat, cholesterol, and calories.
  • Survey the spread. Before choosing what to eat, check what’s available. Look for apps with fresh veggies, fruits, and whole grains. Avoid dishes like casseroles where you can’t tell what all’s inside.
  • Eat lean. There are plenty of ways to add flavor without the gravy. Grilled, steamed, skinless, and seasoned are the best heart-smart choices.
  • Don’t stay close by. Take a few items, and walk away from the food. When you’re catching up, it’s easy to lose track of how much you’ve eaten.
  • Stay active. Instead of giving into an after-meal doze, take a walk or go to the mall for some window shopping.

Potassium and Your Heart

Potassium helps lower your blood pressure in two ways:

  • By getting rid of extra salt through urine.
  • By relaxing blood vessel walls, which lets blood flow more easily.

One article in the Journal of Clinical Hypertension found that just changing how much potassium and magnesium you eat could lower your blood pressure 2 to 6 points.

Adding potassium to your diet doesn’t mean you can eat all the salt you want. But getting enough potassium, at least 4,700 milligrams a day, plays an important part in your overall healthy eating plan to control your blood pressure.

Studies also show a link between potassium and lower stroke risk, so getting more of it is good for your family members, too, even if they don’t have high blood pressure.

From fish to fruits to dairy, lots of foods have potassium. It’s easy to fit into every meal:

1,000 mg
  • Avocado (1 cup)
  • Papaya (1)
  • Baked potato (8 ounces with skin)
  • Edamame (1 cup shelled, cooked)
  • Lima beans (1 cup, cooked)
  • Sweet potato (1 cup, cooked)
750 mg
  • Plantains (1 cup, cooked)
  • Salmon (6 ounces)
  • Tomato sauce (1 cup)
  • Winter squash (1 cup, cooked)
500 mg
  • Banana (1)
  • Beets (1 cup, cooked)
  • Cantaloupe (1 cup)
  • Dried apricots (12 halves)
  • Dried figs (4)
  • Orange juice (1 cup)
  • Yogurt (1 cup plain low-fat)
250 mg
  • Broccoli (1/2 cup, cooked)
  • Zucchini (1/2 cup, cooked)
  • Kiwi (1)
  • Mango (1)
  • Nectarine (1)
  • Orange (1)
  • Pear (1)
  • Strawberries (1 cup)
  • Raisins (1/4 cup)
  • Dates (5 whole)
  • Milk (low-fat or skim,1 cup)
  • Chicken breast (5 ounces, roasted)
  • Peanut butter (2 tablespoons)
  • Peanuts (1 ounce, about 1/4 cup)

Heart Healthy Nuts

Mother Nature’s near-perfect snack is tree nuts. They’re one of the healthiest and easiest snack foods. From boosting memory and brain power to protecting against cancer, research has shown the power of this snack.

Studies find walnuts have the most antioxidants, about twice that of other nuts, and polyunsaturated fats, that help reduce cholesterol and protect the heart, omega-3s, melatonin, and protein.

If walnuts aren’t your first choice, munching on other kinds still has plenty of benefits. Nuts actually lower levels bad cholesterol in your blood. Try substituting a serving of nuts for a food that’s high in saturated fat, like red meat, eggs, and whole-fat dairy.

Almonds
  • Packed with protein, fiber, calcium, and iron.
  • Very high in monosaturated fat, or the heart healthy fat.
  • One of the best sources of Vitamin E, which protects against cancer and stroke.
  • Per 1 ounce serving: 160 calories, 14 grams of fat.
Cashews
  • Good source of monosaturated fat.
  • Per 1 ounce serving: 155 calories, 12 grams of fat.
Pistachios
  • Great source of potassium.
  • High in monosaturated fat (almost as much as almonds).
  • Per 1 ounce serving: 160 calories, 13 grams of fat.
Peanuts
  • Has more protein than tree nuts.
  • Per 1 ounce serving: 170 calories, 14 grams of fat.
Pecans
  • Great choice for fighting high cholesterol because they’re low in saturated fat.
  • Per 1 ounce serving: 200 calories, 20 grams of fat.

Get Moving

Being active is one of the most important things you can do to help control your blood pressure and lower your cholesterol, as well as lower your risk of heart disease. It doesn’t have to take much time, in fact, you can easily add the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity a day simply by changing your routine.

For example, try:

  • Taking a 10-15 minute walk during your lunch break.
  • Jumping rope for 15 minutes.
  • Gardening or raking leaves for 30 minutes.
  • Going for a walk in the park with your family.

Make sure you talk to your doctor before you start a new diet or exercise routine.