fasting blood sugar testThe fasting blood sugar test will actually tell you more about your risk of heart disease than your cholesterol profile. Are you surprised?

Don’t be! While this is not a “cholesterol test,” it IS an important marker for heart disease risk!

Sugar is intimately involved with inflammation, and as we know, it is inflammation that is the real culprit in heart disease, cholesterol is just along for the ride!

According to Dr. Mark Houston associate professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University, for every additional point above 75 on your fasting blood sugar reading, your risk of heart disease goes up!

This is due to the fact that high blood sugar levels in your blood are an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

The impact of elevated blood glucose levels

Sugar is a killer, a serial killer, where your health is concerned. Medical science is just now starting to figure out how damaging sugar can be in your system when the levels are high.

There are a number of reasons for this:

  • High blood sugar causes increased insulin (which is a pro-inflammatory hormone)
  • Elevated sugar levels make your blood more acidic and it tends to clot more readily
  • Sugar causes stiffening of arteries and blood vessels
  • Sugar decreases the oxygen carrying capacity of your blood
  • Nitric oxide is vital for heart health and high sugar levels lower it
  • High sugar levels also cause glycation which is a hardening of tissues in your heart and arteries

For all the reasons above, it’s important to know what your blood sugar levels are, so that if they are high, you can make the necessary changes that will bring the level down and reduce your risk of heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure.

How is the test performed?

A fasting blood sugar test, which is also called a fasting plasma glucose, or FPG test, measures your blood glucose level after you have fasted for at least 8 hours.

It’s a very accurate test, and does not vary by age or how physically active you are. It tends to be a physician favorite because it’s easy to do, cheap, and you get the results relatively fast.

The test is done first thing in the morning (so you can get the results by the afternoon), after at least an 8 hour period with no food, and nothing to drink but water.

A nurse or physician assistant will draw your blood and send the sample to the lab. When the results come back your doctor will discuss with you what the results mean, in terms of your risk for both heart disease and diabetes.

Levels for these tests are expressed in “millgrams per deciliter” (a deciliter is one 10th of a liter). Thus a reading of 100mg/dl is read as 100 milligrams per deciliter.

The threshold for normal fasting sugar levels should be below 100mg/dl, but some experts, most notably Dr. Mark Houston, feel the safe level is 70 -75 mg/dl!

What do the scores mean?

Doctors use what are called “reference ranges” to determine exactly what these tests indicate. All of this is of course relative to the results taken of sample populations to determine what is statistically healthy and what is not.

There are cut off points beyond which a clinical diagnosis is made, and these would appear to be splitting hairs so to speak, but of course the line must be drawn somewhere.  Whatever the result, you will have a much better idea of where you stand, and what you have to do to protect your health in the long term.

If your blood sugar measures between 100 mg/dl to 125 mg/dl, the doctor will probably order a follow-up test to eliminate error. This test result indicates “pre-diabetes” and your doctor may want to discuss steps you can take to bring your sugar levels down and prevent diabetes.

If you score 126mg/dl or above, the doctor will want to test you again to eliminate the chance of some anomaly that might have caused an inaccurate reading. If a follow-up test scores the same result, this will confirm that you are diabetic!

Of course it may seem silly to say that if your result on this test is 125mg/dl you don’t have diabetes and at 126 mg/dl you ARE diabetic, but they had to make a cut off point somewhere.

What is important is that if you are in the range 100-125 you need to make changes to your nutrition and exercise habits to get your blood sugar down to healthy levels.

Insulin is a factor too!

When your blood sugar levels spike, your body produces insulin to lower the sugar level. So if your fasting blood sugar test indicates higher than normal blood sugar levels, you can be sure your insulin levels are high as well.

Insulin is a very pro-inflammatory hormone that causes a lot of problems in your body when it is chronically elevated. This is another reason why you would want to get your sugar levels down to what is considered healthy.

Insulin causes inflammation and damage to the endothelial lining of your arteries, which is how the process of atherosclerosis begins. Thus your sugar levels have a direct bearing on the development of heart disease.

Connection with heart disease

If your blood glucose levels are chronically elevated, a process called glycation comes into play, which causes tissues like the heart and blood vessels to lose elasticity and become stiff.

This stiffening process, along with the damage from inflammation, makes you susceptible to heart attacks, high blood pressure and strokes.

To make it really simple and clear, elevated blood sugar=heart disease! This connection is far more important than cholesterol which does not directly cause heart disease. High blood glucose levels are also a factor in many other chronic diseases as well.

The fasting blood sugar test, by measuring how high your blood sugar is on average gives you a clear indication that your risk for heart disease is elevated, which in turn gives you a chance to lower your risk and avoid heart disease, by bringing your blood sugar levels down.

HDL cholesterol level is the most important factor in your cholesterol profile. The cholesterol hdl ratio is used to determine your risk of a heart attack or stroke. Low hdl means greater risk, and I will explain the reasons why.

hdl cholesterol levelThe effect of cholesterol on your heart health has been distorted by bad information over the years. This is because pharmaceutical companies want to sell statin drugs, so they influenced doctors to set up guidelines that call for proscribing these drugs for lowering cholesterol levels.

The drugs do not lower cholesterol naturally, they do it by interfering with your body’s natural production of lipids, which is unhealthy and dangerous. What makes cholesterol a problem in your arteries is inflammation and free radicals which oxidize the cholesterol and turn it into hard plaques. Hdl cholesterol prevents this process, and protects you against heart disease.

How to raise increase good cholesterol

We know that HDL cholesterol functions as an antioxidant in the body. This means that it will help prevent LDL cholesterol from turning into dangerous plaques inside your arteries. This is why the cholesterol HDL ratio can predict your risk of heart disease. The higher the HDL cholesterol levels, the lower your risk.

So just how do we increase good cholesterol? We do it by diet, exercise, and using certain nutritional supplements that help boost HDL  levels.

Let’s start with diet! Below are some foods that can help increase good cholesterol:

  • Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines
  • Raw nuts and seeds like walnuts, pecans, almonds, and flaxseeds
  • Whole eggs (yes that’s right…they must be WHOLE eggs)
  • Onions
  • Fresh raw low glycemic vegetables – especially dark leafy greens
  • Oat bran
  • Alcohol – 1 or 2 drinks per day maximum

These foods work in a natural way by giving your body the raw materials such as essential fatty acids it needs to raise  HDL!

Nutritional Supplements

Nutritional supplements can also help you increase good cholesterol

  • Fish oil
  • Pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5)
  • niacin – (vitamin B-3)
  • Gugulipid
  • Coenzyme Q-10
  • Carnitine
  • Vitamin-C
  • Vitamin-D
  • Magnesium
  • Polycosanol
  • Vitamin E-complex
  • Alpha Lipoic Acid
  • N-Acetyl-Cysteine
  • CLA – conjugated linoleic acid

All of these supplements help increase HDL levels, however niacin (B-3) and calcium pantothenate (B-5) are the most effective, so you should focus on them first, and add others if needed.

Exercise to raise your HDL cholesterol level

The best form of exercise is some kind of internal training. This might be circuit weight training, kettlebells, bodyweight exercises, ect. The main principle is the workouts should be brief, intense, and make your heart and lungs work hard.

Naturally, if you are older, or not on good health, you should get clearance from your doctor before engaging in strenuous exercise. You should also work into an exercise program gradually so that your body gets used to it. Never jump right into an intense exercise program. Take time to build up your exercise capacity so that you don’t overdo it.

The PACE program by Dr. Al Sears is an excellent exercise system for this!

Just what are good HDL cholesterol levels?

Remember that the cholesterol HDL ratio is very important. That determines your risk of heart attack. The table below reflects the Amercian Heart Association guidelines:

American Heart Association Guidelines

Desirable Borderline Risk
High Risk
HDL
60 or higher
40 to 59
40 or less (men)
HDL
60 or higher
50 to 59
50 or less (women)

Action steps to raise for your HDL cholesterol level:

  • Get your cholesterol HDL ratio tested so you know what they are to start
  • Work in 3 15 minute sessions of circuit or interval training per week
  • Avoid refined foods if possible – stick to raw fruits and vegetables
  • Get plenty of healthy fats in your daily diet
  • Supplement with niacin (B-3) and calcium pantothenate (B-5) to raise HDL

Your HDL cholesterol level is one of the best predictive markers for heart disease that we know of. HDL cholesterol protects you against heart disease, stroke, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. Make it a point to get your HDL cholesterol levels checked, get them into the healthy range and keep them there. Your heart will thank you!

Normal cholesterol levels…just what are they?  This is hard to determine because what is normal for one person is not normal for another. There is only a range where experts generally agree the risk of heart disease either increases or decreases when your cholesterol level falls outside of that range.

That’s about the best modern medicine can do, because of the many other factors involved in heart disease, and the fact that there is really no “normal level” just a normal cholesterol range.

The following table will help define what normal cholesterol levels are said to be by the American Heart Association:

American Heart Association Guidelines
Desirable Borderline Risk
High Risk
Total Cholesterol
200 or less
200-239
240 and over
HDL
60 or higher
40 to 59
40 or less (men)
HDL
60 or higher
50 to 59
50 or less (women)
LDL
less than 100
130-159
160-189
Triglycerides
less than 150
150-199
200-499

Normal Cholesterol Range and Hear Disease Risk

Keep in mind that these so called normal cholesterol levels are not absolutes, they are statistical representations of risk based on data that has been accumulated from studies and patient populations. What that all means is that they are scientific guesses!

Also bear in mind that the pharmaceutical industry CAN and DOES influence guidelines for normal cholesterol levels and risk factors, because it is to their advantage to do so. When the guidelines lower the threshold at which a person is said to be “at risk” more drugs are prescribed by doctors based on those guidelines.

This is very good for the drug companies because it boosts their sales of statin drugs, but it is NOT so good for patients, because they are being given drugs with toxic side effects based on an assessed “risk” that has been influenced by the companies that make the drugs.

So use the normal cholesterol levels in the above chart as just a guide, and focus on lowering cholesterol naturally, as well as inflammation. When you use natural methods, your body will normalize it’s cholesterol levels to what is appropriate for YOU.

You will be much healthier for it and will avoid toxic medications. These drugs can themselves create life threatening side effects which may be as bad or worse than the medical condition they are supposed to prevent.

Normal Cholesterol Levels vs HDL Ratio

The chart above also references what we call the HDL/LDL ratio. This is the ratio of the so called “good cholesterol” vs the “bad cholesterol.” This ration is actually more important as a risk factor than the total cholesterol level, because HDL is said to protect against heart disease.

There are many ways to raise HDL levels which when you think about it may also raise your total cholesterol level. However remember that the higher the HDL level, the less chance of heart disease, so raising HDL is something you definitely want to do.

Some of the strategies I will show you in this blog will both lower LDL and raise HDL. So DO think about this in terms of achieving this healthy ratio, rather than getting hung up on just the total cholesterol numbers, and what normal cholesterol levels are supposed to be. Remember that this ratio is more important than just being in the normal cholesterol range.

Cholesterol production vs serum cholesterol

Serum cholesterol is the amount of cholesterol detected in your blood. Your body actually makes cholesterol, which is a perfectly normal and natural function. Unless you have a genetic defect, it won’t make too much cholesterol.

Your focus when achieve a normal cholesterol level should be diet, exercise, and nutritional supplements! Statin drugs prevent your body from making cholesterol which is a dangerous thing to do.

The correct way to achieve so called normal cholesterol levels is making sure your body has low levels of inflammation, and helping your body clear excess cholesterol from your system, rather than allowing it to be cycled back into your bloodstream again.

niacin taken to lower cholesterolNiacin for cholesterol has for years been the choice of natural supplements that lower cholesterol.  Niacin (vitamin b-3) can improve cholesterol profiles when used in high doses such as 1,000 to 3,000 milligrams per day.

The use of niacin to lower cholesterol has a lot of sound scientific research behind it. It is considered to be the most effective way to lower cholesterol naturally that is currently available.

This is far above the MRD (minimum daily requirement for vitamin b-3, so when it’s being used to lower cholesterol levels, we call that a “therapeutic dose.” These dosages will cause a reaction call a “niacin flush,” which if you are not used to it may be a little disturbing.

This flushing can be controlled by gradual increases in the dosage so that the body has time to adjust and does not react as strongly.

When using niacin for cholesterol, your skin will turn red and you will feel itchy. This is due to what’s called vasodilation. Niacin (also referred to as nicotinic acid) will lower cholesterol levels, reduce triglycerides, and improve the cholesterol hdl ratio, by boosting hdl levels.

Recent studies have shown that a lower dose (1.5 grams/day) of niacin is effective in lowering ldl levels and also boosting hdl levels. This dosage is better tolerated by the majority of people and is thought to be relatively safe for the liver.

Non-flush – niacin for cholesterol

There is a form of niacin that will not trigger as much flushing as regular niacin. The information on this form is contradictory, but some research indicates that it can be effective at both lowering ldl and raising hdl. It’s called extended release niacin.

People DO still get some flushing from this form, but much less. The issue of people not taking the regular form of niacin to lower cholesterol is because of the unpleasant flush, is not a problem with extended release niacin. Because it is so much milder, it may be more effective simply because people will not avoid taking it. This is called “patient compliance” in medical terms.

Together with using extended release niacin, other strategies to lessen the flush reaction are taking it with meals or snacks, and avoiding alcohol when taking it.

Niacin to lower cholesterol – dosage and side effects

Taking niacin for cholesterol, inhibits the breakdown of hdl in the body, which obviously results in higher hdl levels and a better cholesterol hdl ratio. Higher hdl levels alone lower the risk of heart disease, but niacin helps in another way, by lowering ldl levels as well.

Niacin taken at (1-3 grams/day) prevent the breakdown of fats which the liver uses to make lipoproteins. This lowers levels of both ldl and triglycerides, a very beneficial result. Lower triglyceride levels result in lower levels of ldl cholesterol which also lowers risk of heart attacks.

Side effects beyond the flushing reaction are rare but can include alterations in blood pressure, gastrointestinal distress, and liver damage. Although vitamins that lower cholesterol are safer than drugs, you really should seek expert medical advice when using niacin for cholesterol, both from the standpoint of safety and effectiveness.

You also need medical advice to avoid potential bad reactions from taking niacin for cholesterol with any drugs that you are on. Again the advice of a doctor is needed, because they are familiar with side effects and adverse reactions from combining drugs and nutrients.

Natural supplement or prescription

Odd as it might seem there ARE prescription forms of niacin. I have no information which suggests they work any better than what you can get over the counter, and in fact, they may have more side effects depending on how they were formulated.

If you are advised to take a prescription form of niacin for cholesterol, research the side effects very carefully as they are likely to be greater than what you would get with a natural supplement. You want to lower cholesterol naturally and safely!

Remember also that as effective as niacin is, you have to do all of the other things which protect you from heart disease, like eating a healthy diet, getting the right exercise, and reducing your stress. These strategies work together to keep your heart healthy.

The PLAC test is a cutting edge medical screening test that identifies arterial The PLAC Testplaque that is in danger of rupturing. This test, used in conjunction with other cholesterol screening tests can pinpoint your risk of a sudden heart attack with a much greater degree of certainty.

The test actually measures levels of an enzyme in your blood known as lipoprotein phospholipase A2. This enzyme is responsible for a process that can cause damage to your endothelial layer and set the stage for atherosclerotic plaques which can rupture and trigger a heart attack.

When your levels of Lp-PLA2 are elevated, it indicates that you have plaque that can rupture and create a blood clot that results in a heart attack or stroke.

The most current information we have tells us that using cholesterol levels to determine your risk of heart attack is not very accurate. However medical science has identified a process where LDLs (low density lipoproteins) and Lp-PLA2 particles undergo oxidation by free radicals.

These oxidized particles then attack the blood vessel wall causing damage and making the plaque deposits hard and brittle. This oxidized brittle plaque can then break off and cause life threatening problems such as a heart attack or stroke.

Lp-PLA2 is actually created in atherosclerotic plaques and thus can serve as a marker for inflammation in the artery wall. People who have heart disease show high levels of this marker (Lp-PLA2) which not only indicates they have plaque buildup, but also that the plaque is oxidized and can cause severe cardiovascular events.

Autopsies on patients who died suddenly of heart attacks showed ruptured plaques and high levels of Lp-PLA2 in their arteries.

This has also been see in patients who undergo surgery for carotid artery atherosclerosis. They show the same high levels of Lp-PLA2 that indicates a danger of rupturing plaque.

Those people who showed atherosclerosis of the carotid artery but did not show symptoms had much lower levels of Lp_PLA2. It’s clear from this evidence that this is a very significant and useful marker for predicting sudden cardiovascular events.

Studies done at the May Clinic also found that Lp-PLA2 was a specific indicator of dangerous plaques even in the absence of other risk factors. This indicates that it is inflammation and not merely cholesterol levels that create the risk of sudden heart attacks and stokes, so it is inflammation that we should address in our efforts to prevent heart disease.

Advantages of the PLAC test:

  • The test more accurately predicts the risk of sudden heart attack or stroke than other lipid screening tests.
  • The test directly measure lipoprotein phospholipase levels, a very accurate inflammation marker.
  • The PLAC test is the only medical screening approved by the FDA that indicates both heart attack and stroke risk in patients.
  • The test is relatively inexpensive and convenient.
  • The test can also be used to monitor a patients response to treatment and lifestyle changes.
  • The test is covered by Medicare and private insurance companies.
  • The test does not have to be taken in a fasting state.
  • The test can be used in patients that are currently using Pravachol, Benadryl, and Tylenol

Who should get the PLAC test and when?

Experts recommend a formula for determining who should get the test based on other risk factors and their estimate risk of sudden heart attack within a ten year period. This makes no sense to me at all. We have a test that can specifically identify people who are a high risk for a heart attack or stroke, before this actually happens and give them a chance to lower their risk.

I believe the PLAC test should be used as a standard cardiovascular screen test, because it targets the process that is actually dangerous, rather than cholesterol levels which don’t really give an accurate measure of your risk. Once the test has been done, all that’s left is to determine how to go about lowering the risk, by reducing the inflammation in your arteries.

As to who should have it done, it makes sense to me that anyone approaching middle age would be a candidate for it. Autopsies of US soldiers killed during the Korean War showed atherosclerotic plaques in the arteries of young men in their 20’s. Based on this it seems reasonable that the test could even be done on people in their early 20’s as a way of identifying people who may be at risk and giving them plenty of time to make the lifestyle changes needed to protect themselves.

People with metabolic syndrome which consists of the following:

  • obesity
  • abnormal blood lipid profile
  • elevated blood sugar
  • high blood pressure

are prime candidates for the PLAC test, as it is known that metabolic syndrome involves inflammation and thus raises the risk of heart disease.

The test can be done at followup intervals to verify the success of lifestyle changes and other interventions in terms of lowering the patient’s risk. While I claim no medical expertise, common sense suggests that this test be done early and the person then adapt their lifestyle, nutritional and exercise habits to mitigate this risk. That approach makes the most sense.

How to interpret the test results:

Even though the Lp-PLA2 test is much different than cholesterol screening tests, the levels are somewhat similar:

The 3 risk levels are:

Low:   under 200 ng/mL

Borderline:  200 to 235 ng/mL

High:  over 235 ng/mL.

Lp-PLA2 levels over 200 to 220 ng/mL indicate a very high risk of endothelial damage which in turn presents a very high risk of atherosclerosis.

Medical Interventions:

The PLAC test can be used to identify the magnitude of risk and also to determine how well the treatments used to combat it are working. This is why followup tests are important.

Statin drugs are said to provide a 20-30% reduction in Lp-PLA2 levels. The risk to benefit ration of statins is something you will have to discuss with your doctor.

Niacin used in combination with statins is reported to provide an additional 5 to 20% further reduction of the Lp-PLA2 enzyme.

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors are also reported to lower Lp-PLA2 levels, and medical scientists have speculated that the effectiveness of all cardiovascular drugs may actually depend on their ability to successfully lower Lp-PLA2 levels

Niacin and omega 3 fatty acids (fish oil) also show an ability to reduce levels of Lp-PLA2.

Tumeric spice (also called circumin) has been found to reduce a form of phospholipase in animals, and thus may be of value to humans in reducing Lp-PLA2 levels, but the study results are not in on this yet. My guess is however that turmeric is most probably of value in human as well.

Conclusion:

Since heart disease is the nation’s number one killer, preventing it is vitally important to a long and health life. Medical screening tests such as blood pressure and cholesterol are not enough to accurately predict who is a risk for a heart attack or stroke.

The PLAC test is relatively inexpensive, non invasive, and very accurate in predicting who is at high risk for a sudden cardiac event like a heart attack or stroke. It really represents a cutting edge approach to identifying people at high risk and helping them make the changes that can save their lives.

Cholesterol too low, how can this be a problem? We have all heard about the supposed relationship of heart disease to cholesterol levels, so we assume that lower is better. NOT SO!

cholesterol too lowEverything in your body is based on maintaining a balance, and cholesterol profiles are no exception.  Low cholesterol levels can be just as unhealthy as levels that are too high.

The belief that simply lowering cholesterol will protect you from heart attacks has been encouraged by the pharmaceutical industry and those medical professionals that serve it.  While cholesterol is a factor, there are other things involved such as inflammation, that make a big difference.

The risks of various serious medical conditions rise for those individuals having a total cholesterol level of under 160 mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter).  That said, some experts recommend that the ideal is somewhere between 180mg/dl and 200mg/dl for total cholesterol, (but even this is subject to controversy)

What causes low cholesterol?

Cholesterol that’s too low can be caused by:

  • Use of statin drugs
  • Malnutrition
  • Malabsorption – inadequate absorption of nutrients from the intestines
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Liver dysfunction
  • Manganese deficiency
  • Celiac disease
  • Leukemia and other blood diseases

Please note:  Excessively low cholesterol levels need to be evaluated by a trained medical professional to determine the cause and the proper treatment. It is important not only to know what causes low cholesterol, but also having a proper treatment strategy in place to make sure you address it.

When you optimize cholesterol naturally, this is not a problem, because you are not trying to curtail your own body’s production of cholesterol, but rather preventing re-absorption through the large intestine.

You will NOT bring your cholesterol too low with this approach.

Effects of low cholesterol

Hypocholesterolemia – cholesterol too low, has been associated with a number of serious medical disorders such as:

  • Reduced production of your body’s steroid hormones
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Increased risk of heart disease
  • Increased risk of strokes
  • Increased risk of depression/bipolar disorder
  • Increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Possible loss of memory
  • Increased risk of suicide
  • Increased risk of schizophrenia

Effects of low cholesterol are very serious, and you need to focus not on simply lowering cholesterol, but achieving a healthy level based on your individual biochemistry.  With cholesterol too low, many vital chemical processes can’t be completed properly.

Cholesterol too low? – So what is the right approach?

The correct approach is not to simply focus on lowering cholesterol, just as weight loss should not simply be about losing weight.  Rather than making your cholesterol too low, this process will allow you to achieve the right balance.

That process includes:

  • Proper eating
  • Proper exercise
  • Nutritional supplementation
  • Stress reduction

Proper eating should include foods that are low in cholesterol but also nutrient dense, and which contain plenty of fiber. This is because fiber can absorb excess cholesterol as it passes through the large intestine and is then excreted out of the body in the stool.  The recommended fiber consumption is about 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men.

Proper exercise is short and intense, like interval training, but ultimately should be moderated by the age and physical condition of the person doing it. Be cautious and seek professional guidance in setting up an exercise program if you are an older person, or if you have a serious medical condition.

Nutritional supplementation should include full spectrum vitamin and mineral formula. A high quality fish oil is also a key supplement that will lower your risk of heart disease and every other medical condition you can think of. Sufficient levels of omega 3 fatty acids are essential to good health, and fish oil supplies these.

Stress reduction uses various techniques to lower stress and promote relaxation and tranquility. Among these, grounding is one of the most effective. Other strategies like meditation, the speed trace, and various other relaxation techniques can be very effective.

Having your cholesterol too low is a risk factor for chronic disease. A balanced approach, rather than just low cholesterol levels is the answer. Doing the things mentioned above should allow you to naturally achieve the right balance.

By – Eve Pierce

Heart disease is a huge concern in the US at present. On average, 600,000 people per year die in this country as a result or to put it more starkly, 1 in 4 per annum; a quarter of the country’s annual deaths.

healthy-heartIt is America’s most significant killer and incidences of the condition are on the rise. But, for many, the facts of heart disease are shrouded in mystery. What exactly causes it? Is there any way it can it be avoided? Are the causes obvious, or are there causes that are lesser known?

And most importantly; what can be done in terms of lifestyle and dietary change, to ensure that the illness is avoided? For those seeking to promote longevity in their lives, it is vital to address these issues, in order to maintain a healthy heart and to live a long and fulfilling life.

What is Heart Disease?

Considering how often the phrase is used in society, it is often one of the most misunderstood medical terms. Heart disease does not simply refer to heart attack (though coronary disease still remains the most common; killing on average, 385,000 people per annum).

It can refer to a whole range of conditions affecting the heart, including heart rhythm problems and infections. Alarmingly, few Americans are aware of the symptoms; which is a contributing factor to the high rate of death among sufferers. Symptoms include:

  •     Shortness of breath.
  •     Pain in the upper body, particularly in the arms, neck, back or upper stomach.
  •     Cold sweats, dizziness or nausea.
  •     Chest pain.

It is a good idea to be aware of the symptoms, but a far better idea is to be aware of the preventative measures that can be taken to ensure that heart disease never occurs.

Causes of Heart Disease

As might be expected, major contributory factors are diet and lifestyle. A major cause of heart disease has been attributed to foods that are high in polyunsaturated oils and processed carbohydrates; foods which are still sadly all too prevalent in the US. In addition to this, food that is high in processed salt content, and trans fats are considered to be large contributors to heart disease.

Exercise (or lack of) is also a considerable factor, as is smoking. However, there are some lesser known and rarer causes; such as spasms of the arteries caused by certain drugs and medications, trauma to the chest and even other diseases, such as Kawasaki disease.

Recent research has also uncovered other interesting suggestions of lesser known causes, such as the link between cardiovascular disease and baldness in males. However, all experts agree that, with appropriate adjustments to lifestyle and eating habits, heart disease can be avoided by a significant proportion of the US population.

How to Avoid Heart Disease and Promote Longevity

When making lifestyle changes, sometimes it can be difficult to know where to start. When making plans to change your way of living to avoid heart disease, an excellent place to start is with diet. Avoid fried foods and anything that contains trans fats. Start cutting down on processed table salt, which can cause problems for those people with elevated blood pressure

Avoid adding unnecessary amounts of salt to your cooking and avoid eating heavily salted products, such as potato chips and fries. When considering introducing exercise into your life, aim for little and often, at the start, rather than less frequently but more intensively. When you become more fit, you can increase the intensity of your exercise as appropriate.

Experts recommend taking a brisk walk for ten minutes, three times a day; at least five days of the week. Sometimes, introducing this can be as simple as opting to walk to the local store rather than drive there; or choosing to walk the dog three times a day, rather than once. If you are a smoker, try quitting (smokefree.gov has great tips to get you started) and it is also advised to cut down on alcoholic intake.

Healthy Heart; Happy Head

Focus on developing a positive attitude when changing your lifestyle for the better. For those who are used to viewing exercise as unpleasant and fast food and candy as a ‘treat’, having the willpower to make the changes can be tough. Rather than focusing on what you’re missing, think forwards and visualize where you want to be in the future; fit, healthy and heart disease free.

Lowering triglycerides can significantly improve heart health! Your body is an totally integrated system. Knowing the cause of high triglycerides and learning how to reduce your levels will decease your risk of heart disease.

lowering triglyceridesWhile cholesterol is most often blamed for heart disease, recent scientific evidence does not support the theory that cholesterol causes cardiovascular disease. Fully half of all heart attacks occur in patients who have what are considered normal cholesterol levels. The evidence more strongly points toward triglycerides.

Triglycerides are a major factor in heart disease. An estimate two thirds of heart disease cases are at least partly a result of abnormal triglyceride levels.

There are two types of high triglycerides:

  • Familial (genetic) – usually over 400mg/dl this is not
    thought to be a cause of heart disease
  • Insulin resistant – usually 150-400mg/dl this is dangerous,
    associated with pre-diabetes and increased risk of heart disease

What are triglycerides and why are they important?

Triglycerides are lipids that are made from fats or carbohydrates you eat and are stored in the body. The higher their levels, the greater your risk for heart disease, which is why lowering triglycerides is so critical for your cardiovascular health.

Here is why elevated triglycerides are dangerous, and why lowering triglycerides is so important.

  • They are deposited in various organs including the heart
  • They can alter gene expression and increases heart disease
  • They can cause insulin resistance leading to diabetes
  • They can accumulate on artery walls causing plaque buildup
  • They thicken blood causing strokes and other circulatory
    problems
  • They contribute to abdominal obesity

What is a normal triglyceride level?

Before you go about lowering triglycerides, you need to check your levels to get a baseline so that you can tell how effective your efforts to lower them are!

The guidelines of the American Heart Association recommend that a normal triglyceride level is under 149 mg/dl.

However the Life Extension Foundation recommends an even lower level of 80-100 mg/dl measured in a fasting state.

The “fasting state” is when you have not eaten for at least 12 hours.

Unlike cholesterol, you really don’t have to worry about triglycerides going too low, so lowering triglycerides will have positive benefits for your health.  Doing the right things will bring the levels down naturally, to what is optimal for you.

Cause of high triglycerides

Just what causes these levels to become too high?

There are several factors:

  • Eating carbohydrates that raise your blood sugar rapidly
  • Problems with carbohydrate metabolism
  • Heavy drinking
  • Insulin resistance (poor insulin sensitivity)
  • A diet that consists of over 60% carbohydrate
  • Smoking
  • Lack of exercise – low physical activity
  • Obesity
  • Metabolic Syndrome
  • Kidney disease
  • Certain prescription medications (estrogen, birth control pills, tamoxifen, steroids, beta-blockers, and diuretics)

Lowering triglycerides

Lowering triglycerides really comes down to two things, restricting sugars, and getting regular exercise. Of course there is more to it than that, but those are the two most effective things.

Most people eat too many refined carbohydrates, and that is the cause of high triglycerides.

A “low glycemic diet” high in fiber will help in lowering triglycerides. This is because fiber slows down the entry of sugars into the bloodstream. Rapid entry of sugar into the bloodstream causes insulin to rise, and this promotes inflammation which in turn causes triglyceride levels to go up!

Nutritional supplements such as circumin, and green coffee extract, can also help by lowering inflammation, and helping the body manage blood sugar levels more efficiently.

Exercise also helps in lowering triglycerides  because it increases insulin sensitivity, maintains lean muscle, and mobilizes fatty acids to be burned for energy.

Below are some short simple steps for lowering triglycerides:

  • Limit your carbohydrates to mostly fresh vegetables – go easy on fruits
  • Eat what is known as a low glycemic diet
  • Avoid over consuming grains, and eating sweets
  • Eat lean proteins
  • Use nutritional supplements as you need them
  • Get some kind of brisk exercise each day

That’s pretty much it! Lowering triglycerides willboost heart health and improve the health of your entire cardiovascular system.  It’s probably the best things you can do to put yourself on a path to better health!

A home cholesterol test is one way that you can begin taking more responsibility for your health, and understanding just how your diet and lifestyle affect your cholesterol values. A cholesterol blood test will determine if you have normal cholesterol levels, and if not, the cholesterol test results can be read and further interpreted by your doctor.

Testing in a home environment is just not as accurate as the tests performed in your doctor’s office. Home test kits are just not engineered to replace a full diagnostic lab, but they don’t have to. These tests are meant to help you keep track of your cholesterol values, and make adjustments to your diet and lifestyle when you need to.

Caution: Never substitute a home cholesterol test, or home testing (of any kind) for proper diagnosis and treatment from your doctor. Your physician can measure cholesterol levels much more precisely using lab tests that you can with a home test, so the lab work your doctor orders on your blood samples is the most accurate and best way to establish what your levels really are.

Home tests help you keep track of markers like cholesterol or blood sugar, but they are not meant to be substitutes for a proper medical test or diagnosis!

You need to be tested by your doctor to establish what is called a “baseline,” and once you know what this is, then home testing can tell you whether your levels are going up or down. These measurements are “relative” and their real value is helping you to track how your cholesterol levels are responding to diet and exercise.

Although the home cholesterol test is fairly accurate, it should be calibrated with the cholesterol blood test that you have in your doctor’s office. Take your home test kit with you and test yourself at the same time your doctor draws your blood for the full laboratory test.

That way you can see how the results of the two tests differ, and will be able to get an idea of just how far off the cholesterol test results are between the cholesterol blood test you get in the doctor’s office and the home cholesterol test.

When you buy online, read reviews carefully, do a little research into the product you are buying. Some of these cholesterol testing systems are expensive (over $100.00) dollars, require you to buy a testing unit, and additional test strips for it. This can run well over $100.00 for both.

Obviously you would not use a home cholesterol test as often as you would use a glucose monitor for instance. You are merely trying to track your normal cholesterol levels, and see how they respond to changes you make in your diet and lifestyle.

Here are some brands:

  •     CholesTrak, Home Access Instant Cholesterol Test
  •     Cardio Check (gives you both HDL and LDL level)
  •     Lifestream Personal Cholesterol Monitor (give you both HDL and LDL)

“Cardio Check” seemed to have by far the highest customer satisfaction ratings online.

A home cholesterol test should can run between $10.00 and $150.00 depending on how comprehensive the test is. Some tests only give you total cholesterol, which is not a very useful indicator. It may tell you how your total cholesterol levels is responding to diet or exercise, but it does not indicate real risk factors.

For that you need to know your HDL level, and a test that gives you both LDL and HDL levels will give you the information to assess risk factors more clearly. When you know both your LDL and HDL levels, you can calculate total cholesterol, as well as HDL/LDL ratio which is the best cholesterol values which indicate your heart disease risk.

The home cholesterol test to look for is one that at least gives you both HDL and LDL levels. These should run you about $30-$50 and are available online. Again you will have to check it for accuracy against the cholesterol blood test from your doctor, but if it gives you a somewhat reliable indicator of your cholesterol values, then it’s doing it’s job.