Cholesterol Numbers and Letters
By Gretchen Heuring | 07.27.2014
Which Alphabet to Count
As soon as someone starts talking to me about all the bits and parts of cholesterol and which part is which, and what to eat or not eat, I get SO confused. Usually, I just tune out and have a little butter on my toast. Butter is good, right?
Actually, there's quite a bit of controversey about dairy fat (like butter and cheese.) Butter, in small amounts, might not be so bad for us. Butter and sugar, as in a cookie, is terrible. But a bit of butter with your bread might be fine. Other hard fats like those found in meats are know for sure to increase LDL cholesterol. More about that follows.
I've really dug my heels in to learn about these things at my age (70+) so I can write it down for you. I did quite a bit of work here, so please take a deep breath and read your way through it. The knowledge helped me lots. I think it will help you too...and as my Daddy always said, "No one can take knowledge away. You can add to it, but you can't subtract." Take your time. This is important.
There are three main ideas underlying the causes of heart disease. They are all about what's in your blood. Some if it it is natural and put there by your own body. Most of it is put there by you and what you eat. So here goes: There are "bad" cholesterol (LDL) and "good" cholesterol (HDL) and "triglycerides." I'll save triglycerides for last and tell you about cholesterol now. The "bad" cholesterol is further down the alphabet, starting with "L." Too much LDL is bad for you because it settles on the inside walls of your arteries and clogs them up and slows the flow of blood.
Our bodies naturally produce the good kind of cholesterol (HDL). The good fights the kind, keeping it from building up inside the arteries. We mostly get the bad kind (LDL) because we eat fat that causes our bodies to make it. So here's the real deal. If we eat the RIGHT kind of fat regularly, it will boost our good cholesterol (HDL) and we will have less artery clogging bad cholesterol to worry about. If you are confused now, read this again.
Your doctor might be too polite to tell you, but a high triglyceride number is most likely caused by too much alcohol. Triglyceride is a type of fat in the blood. It's a little different from Cholesterol though high triglyceride levels can be just as important.
There are meds for reducing cholesterol and tryglycerides that are too high. You can just take the meds and eat and drink the way you always have, but there are side effects to the meds. The meds are supposed to make you better, but you but you really need to change your food choices. This is called "changing your lifestyle." The more you change your lifestyle, the fewer meds you will need, and the less you will have to worry about side effects. I know it's easier to take a pill. The pill is a choice. A changed lifestyle is also a choice. Which is better for you? You need to think about that just as you do about any problem. This lifestyle choice is every bit as important as a financial decision, or asking someone to share your life.