Category Archives: high cholesterol

Biking linked to lower cardiovascular disease risk – AHA

Can I get an Amen?

People who bike regularly, either for pleasure or as a way to commute, appear to have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, according to two separate studies published simultaneously in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation and Journal of the American Heart Association, the AHA/ASA’s Open Access Journal.

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My dog and me rounding a turn on Northerly Island, just south of the Chicago Loop.

While structured cycling as part of a formal workout routine is already known to guard against cardiovascular illness, little is known about the effects of habitual biking done for leisure or as a way to commute. Together, the findings from the newly published studies suggest that leisure and commuter biking may be an important public health strategy in large-scale efforts to reduce cardiovascular risk.

In the Circulation study, 45,000 Danish adults (aged 50 to 65) who regularly biked for recreation or to commute had between 11 percent and 18 percent fewer heart attacks during a 20-year follow-up (1993-2013).

The analysis showed that as little as half an hour of biking per week provided some protection against coronary artery disease. Additionally, people who took up biking during the first five years the authors followed them had about a 25 percent lower risk of developing heart disease, compared with those who remained non-bikers in the subsequent 15-year period.

Researchers caution that their findings do not prove definitively that riding a bike for leisure or to and from work can prevent heart attacks. However, they say, the lower number of cardiovascular events observed among those who biked on a regular basis is a strong indicator that such activity can boost cardiovascular health.

“Finding time for exercise can be challenging for many people, so clinicians working in the field of cardiovascular risk prevention should consider promoting cycling as a mode of transportation,” said Anders Grøntved, M.Sc., M.P.H., Ph.D., senior study author and associate professor of physical activity epidemiology at the University of Southern Denmark.

Researchers also tracked participants’ overall exercise habits, activity levels and frequency of bicycle riding, along with heart disease risk factors, such as blood pressure, weight, cholesterol, smoking, diet and alcohol consumption. Participants were asked to provide information about cycling habits at the onset of the study and once more in five years.

In all, there were 2,892 heart attacks during the 20-year follow-up. Researchers estimate that more than 7 percent of all heart attacks could have been averted by taking up cycling and keeping it up on a regular basis.

“Because recreational and commuter biking is an easy way to make physical activity part of one’s routine in a non-structured and informal fashion, based on the results, public health authorities, governments and employers ought to consider initiatives that promote bicycle riding as a way to support large-scale cardiovascular disease prevention efforts,” said Kim Blond, M.Sc, lead author and research assistant at the University of Southern Denmark.

The Journal of the American Heart Association study revealed that middle-aged and older Swedish adults who biked to work were less likely than non-bikers to be obese, have high cholesterol, high blood pressure or pre-diabetes — all critical drivers of cardiovascular risk.

Researchers followed more than 20,000 people in their 40s, 50s and 60s over 10 years and monitored their commuting habits, weight, cholesterol levels, blood glucose and blood pressure.

At the beginning of the study, active commuters (biked to work) were 15 percent less likely to be obese, 13 percent less likely have high blood pressure, 15 percent less likely to have high cholesterol and 12 percent less likely to have pre-diabetes or diabetes, compared with passive commuters (used public transportation or drove to work).

During a follow-up exam 10 years later, the portion of study participants who switched from passive commuting to active commuting also had an improved risk profile. They were less likely to be obese, have diabetes, hypertension or elevated cholesterol, compared with non-bikers.

Collectively, at the 10-year follow-up, those who maintained biking or took up biking at some point had a 39-percent lower risk of obesity, 11 percent lower risk of high blood pressure, 20 percent lower risk of high cholesterol and 18 percent lower diabetes risk.

“We found active commuting, which has the additional advantages of being time-efficient, cheaper and environmentally friendly is also great for your health,” said Paul Franks, Ph.D., senior study author, professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences at Lund University in Sweden and guest professor at Umeå University in Sweden. “The multiple advantages of active commuting over structured exercise may help clinicians convey a message that many patients will embrace more readily than being told to join a gym, go for a jog or join a sports team.”

Researchers noted that there was no minimum amount of time or distance required to reduce one’s risk, even though people who biked longer or more often experienced small additional gains in risk reduction.

Because the study was observational, it is difficult to establish a cause-and-effect relationship between improved cardiovascular health and commuter biking, but the findings do indicate a strong cardio-protective effect from cycling.

Based on their findings, researchers also estimated that maintaining biking habits or switching from passive commuting to biking may have prevented 24 percent of obesity cases, 6 percent of hypertension diagnoses, 13 percent of high cholesterol diagnoses, and 11 percent of the cases of diabetes.

“The really good news here is that it’s never too late to benefit from an active lifestyle,” Franks said. “People who switched from passive to active commuting saw considerable gains in their cardiovascular health.”

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Coconut oil: Healthful or unhealthful? – MNT

Coconut oil has been all the rage for some time. Endorsed by a number of celebrities as a superfood, this tropical-smelling fat — often liberally applied to our skin and scalps — is a favorite of many. But the question remains: is it healthful or not?

Fat suffered a bad reputation for a long time and we were told to opt for low-fat options instead. But the tides turned eventually, prompting us to see fats in a new light.

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Our lives became simpler. We learned how to avoid bad (saturated and hydrogenated) fats and eat good (unsaturated) ones to keep our tickers and arteries healthy.

Then the humble coconut came along in 2003, and the waters were once again muddied. Seen by some as a superfood but recently labeled by the American Heart Association (AHA) as part of the pool of unhealthful fats, the controversy goes on.

So, what are the scientific facts behind the coconut oil hype, and what are the latest developments?

Secret ingredient: ‘Medium-chain’ fatty acids

Many of the purported health claims surrounding coconut oil stem from research published in 2003 by Marie-Pierre St-Onge, Ph.D. — a professor of nutritional medicine at Columbia University in New York City, NY. Continue reading

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Non-HDL cholesterol explained – Harvard

When I get my annual physical, I always have blood work done, too. I have often wondered at the various breakdowns of cholesterol. Herewith, an explanation from the Harvard Medical School.

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Q. My recent cholesterol test result included “non-HDL cholesterol.” What is the significance of this number?

A. Your non-HDL cholesterol result refers to your total cholesterol value minus your HDL cholesterol. When you get your blood drawn for a cholesterol test (also known as a lipid profile or lipid panel), the report usually includes four numbers: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol; high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol; triglycerides; and total cholesterol.

Although you might assume total cholesterol is simply the sum of your LDL and HDL, it also includes very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL). These particles carry triglycerides to tissues and eventually become LDL. Like LDL, it also causes cholesterol to build up on the inside of arteries, creating artery-clogging plaque. Both are considered undesirable, so the higher your LDL and VLDL values, the higher your risk of heart disease. Continue reading

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Do I Have to go on Statin Drugs for the Rest of my Life to Fight High Cholesterol?

I am reblogging this analysis I wrote two years ago. At the time I thought it was good useful information for the general public. Now, It seems my doctor says that it applies to me.

I have just had my annual flu shot and pneumonia booster. In the course of my annual check up, I also had my blood work done.

As regular readers know I am 75  years old and in the best health of my entire life. I weigh around 155 pounds and have a resting heart rate below 50 beats per minute.

Here are my Cholesterol numbers:
CHOLESTEROL 182
Optimal (not to be construed as a target for drug therapy): <170 mg/dL
TRIGLYCERIDE 41
Optimal (not to be construed as a target for drug therapy): <100 mg/dL
Highly Abnormal (please review with your medical team further): >499 mg/dL

HDL CHOLESTEROL 77
Optimal (not to be construed as a target for drug therapy): >50 mg/dL
LDL CHOL (CALC)  97
Optimal (not to be construed as a target for drug therapy): < 100 mg/dL
Highly Abnormal (please review with your medical team further): >189 mg/dL

Non-HDL Cholesterol 105
Optimal (not to be construed as a target for drug therapy): <120 mg/dL
Highly Abnormal (please review with your medical team further): >219 mg/dL

Despite my excellent physical condition and these good test results, my doctor recommended that I go on a statin drug, atorvastatin, to reduce my risk of heart attack or stroke.

POSTED OCT 9, 2015 To clarify:

My Doctor sent me the following:

… although your cholesterol numbers are quite good your overall risk for stroke and heart attacks is still quite high. I calculated your risk of having a stroke or heart attack in the next 10 years and it is 21.6%. I did this with the new American Heart Association Guidelines (AHA) and it is based on your age,sex, race, blood pressure, smoking status and hypertension as well as diabetes. We recommend starting cholesterol medications if the risk is above 7.5%. Even though you are doing everything right your overall risk is still high, as is the risk for most 75 year old males. Many physicians would recommend that your begin a cholesterol medication so I would have your consider taking atorvastatin.

For the record, I declined the recommendation saying that I felt more comfortable relying on my positive lifestyle.

Here is what I wrote back: Thanks very much for your prompt turnaround of my blood work. I also appreciate your considered recommendation regarding taking a statin prescription. At this time I am not comfortable with that. I understand the statistics, but I think those statistics include a lot of men who are not as healthy or health-conscious as I am. I think I would like to continue on with my current lifestyle of daily exercise and healthy eating and avoid the drugs. If I find a deterioration in my condition in the future, I will revisit this decision.

Tony

One Regular Guy Writing about Food, Exercise and Living Past 100

“Millions more Americans could end up taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs under new recommendations released Tuesday that advocate a dramatic shift in the way doctors assess and treat cardiovascular risk,” according to the Washington Post.

“Roughly a quarter of Americans age 45 and older already take statins, which include familiar brands such as Lipitor and Zocor, to treat high cholesterol. But that number could grow sharply under far-reaching guidelines detailed by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology.”

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The leading cause of death for Americans is heart disease. About one in every four deaths in the United States, or about 600,000 annually, are attributed to heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cholesterol helps your body build new cells, insulate nerves, and produce hormones. Normally, the liver makes all the cholesterol the body needs. But cholesterol also enters your body from food. Too…

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How to Conquer High Cholesterol – Harvard

If you have been careless in your eating habits and your cholesterol has flourished, don’t give up hope. All is not lost. The Harvard Medical Bulletin Healthbeat says that changing what you eat can lower your cholesterol and improve the fats floating through your bloodstream. Some foods are better than others in bringing down cholesterol.

“Some cholesterol-lowering foods deliver a good dose of soluble fiber, which binds cholesterol and its precursors in the digestive system and drags them out of the body before they get into circulation. Others provide polyunsaturated fats, which directly lower Low-density lipoprotein (LDL). And those with plant sterols and stanols keep the body from absorbing cholesterol. Here are 5 of those foods:

This is what it looks like when you clog your arteries

This is what it looks like when you clog your arteries

1. Oats. An easy way to start lowering cholesterol is to choose oatmeal or a cold oat-based cereal like Cheerios for breakfast. It gives you 1 to 2 grams of soluble fiber. Add a banana or some strawberries for another half-gram.
2. Beans. Beans are especially rich in soluble fiber. They also take a while for the body to digest, meaning you feel full for longer after a meal. That’s one reason beans are a useful food for folks trying to lose weight. With so many choices — from navy and kidney beans to lentils, garbanzos, black-eyed peas, and beyond — and so many ways to prepare them, beans are a very versatile food.
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