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.

pantethine-capsulesGood cholesterol levels can be achieved easily and naturally using pantethine, which is what I call a heart healthy nutritional supplement.

It is a derivative of vitamin b5 and it’s made up of two molecules of pantothenic acid linked together by what’s called a cysteamine bridge.

It is an intermediate step in the synthesis of  Coenzyme A, which in turn is involved in various enzymatic reactions including the production and oxidation of fatty acids.

pantethine molecule

Pantethine is what’s called the “active” (more biologically available) form of the vitamin b5, but unlike the more well known form calcium pantothenate, it is less stable and will degrade if not refrigerated.

The theory is that since it’s closer biochemically to coenzyme A, it is more beneficial than pantothenic acid. It’s involved in the activation of coenzyme A and helps transport fatty acids across the cell membrane into the mitochondria to be used to make ATP, (a key component in health).

However as you will see it’s benefits go far beyond improving your cholesterol hdl ratio!

How does it work and what does it do?

Biochemistry details aside, the bottom line for the average person is “what does it do?” Dr. Stephen Sinatra has stated that in every type of heart disease, what we find is an energy starved heart! The role of pantethine in cellular energy production is a big part of it’s beneficial effect on heart health.

The heart is a very energy intense organ, and the ability for the cells of the heart to produce  energy in the form of ATP affects every aspect of your heart function, from contraction to the electrical signaling that keeps your heart beating strongly and evenly.

Pantethine is right in the middle of all of this because it is a key player in the production of ATP in the mitochondria of your cells. In plain English, it boosts energy not only to your heart, but all the organs and systems of your body!

It  has been shown (in animal experiments) to lower LDL cholesterol and raise hdl cholesterol, improving the cholesterol hdl ratio, as well as decreasing triglycerides. The ability of pantethine to promote good cholesterol levels is highly beneficial to heart health.

In addition is increases levels of apolipoprotein A1, which is the component of HDL responsible for transporting cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver. Pantethine also functions as an anti stress nutrient, due to the fact that it supports the health of your adrenal glands and protects the health of your hormonal system particularly when you are under stress.

Pantethione also protects your brain in several ways. It promotes the synthesis of Coenzyme A (CoA) which in turn is used in the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is critical for healthy brain function, and a lack of this neurotransmitter can lead to Alzheimer’s Disease.

It’s positive effect on the synthesis of CoA improves the efficiency of your heart and in turn improves blood flow to the brain. Pantethine has also been shown to be beneficial for the immune system, detoxification, arthritis, and wound healing. It is used also to treat acne, and also for gout and CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome).

So the evidence is that pantethine…

  • Improves hdl cholesterol levels
  • Improves ldl cholesterol level
  • Protects the brain by boosting acetylcholine
  • Improves heart function and blood flow
  • Can be used to treat acne
  • Is helpful in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Improves detoxification
  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Combats arthritis
  • Can be used to treat gout

How is it taken (form and dosage)

Pantethine as a nutritional supplement is taken orally in capsule form. Clinical research protocols have used as little as 300mg per day with statistically significant result. Levels of 600mg to 900mg have been used in research and yielded very significant reductions in LDL levels for subjects with elevated cholesterol levels. In general though there is little information to use as a guide for precise dosage levels.

Remember that where dosages are concerned, more is not necessarily better. The best course of action would be to use this supplement under the guidance of a complementary physician who can do follow up blood work and determine the correct dosage based on that.

This supplement should work at a relatively low dose, even as low as 5mg to 50mg per day. Start with the lowest dosage and work upwards until you find what works for you.

There are home cholesterol tests that you could use to establish a baseline reference and follow up test would tell you if the pantethine was having an effect. You would have to be careful to account for all the variables in your diet and activity level, and even at that it would not be a “scientifically accurate” result, but enough for you to determine whether pantethine was actually promoting good cholesterol levels.

Side effects

Large amounts of this supplement could potentially block absorption of other b vitamins. It could also cause fatigue, numbness in your hands and feet, or headaches. It’s effect on peristalsis could cause more frequent bowel movements or diarrhea.

The toxicity of this supplement is extremely low, and it has been termed “well tolerated” which is medical jargon for having few side effects. It is not likely that toxicity would be a problem at the dosages that would have benefit.

Brands to look for

Brands I like are:  Jarrow Formulas, Life Extension, and Pure Encapsulations. You really can’t go wrong with these companies when it comes to the quality of the supplements they sell. To be sure there are other good brands, but these are the ones I know of to be top notch.

To Sum Up

This is a supplement that can be helpful in many conditions due to it’s vital role in cellular energy production. Think of it less as something “medicinal” and more as a substance your body needs to create energy that powers all of your biochemical reactions.

Pantethine can be a powerful addition to your nutritional arsenal when it comes to promoting good cholesterol levels, combating heart disease and protecting your brain function. This article should be a starting point for your investigation and use of this fascinating supplement!

Citrus BergamotCitrus Bergamot is the latest natural supplement for lowering cholesterol levels and can also lower blood sugar as well. This new food supplement has taken the medical world by storm, even being used in place of statin drugs in some cases.

Truth be known, it’s an interesting compound but has many varied effects. It’s ability to block the synthesis of cholesterol means that it could cause problems in some people who’s cholesterol levels are too low to start with.

It is beneficial in other ways though, so it’s definitely something you need to discuss with an integrative cardiologist, if you are attempting to use it as a means of lowering cholesterol levels.

What is Citrus Bergamot?

Citrus Bergamot is a small sized tree that will blossom during winter. In terms of bitterness, it is less bitter than lemon but more than grapefruit. It is used as an ingredient in Earl Grey Tea. The juice of this plant is not consumed, but is used as a treatment for malaria, and the oil is used for aromatherapy.

A fragrant orange sized yellow green citrus fruit that is grown commercially in the Calabria region of Southern Italy. It is grown also in the southern part of France, as well as the south of Turkey.

The essential oil of Bergamot is a dark greenish-brown in color and is extracted in Cote d’Ivorie. It is grown in Antalya Turkey for use in marmalade.

Unlike other citrus fruits, Bergamot has very large amounts of polyphenols. Two of those compounds Melitidin, and Brutieridin, block the synthesis of cholesterol in the liver in much the same way statin drugs do.

It also has a similar effect to grapefruit in that it can affect the way your body metabolizes various pharmaceutical drugs.

How does it work?

Bergemot reduces the amount of triglycerides and cholesterol you would ordinarily absorb through meals. It also reduces the biosynthesis of cholesterol in the body. It also helps glucose get into cells which is beneficial for diabetics.

It blocks the HMG CoA Reductase Enzyme, which is what statin drugs do. It contains substances called polyphenolic flavanoids that suppress cholesterol production in much the same way that statins do, but it works in a different way that does not seem to deplete coenzyme Q10.

There are three main modes of action:

  • Blocks the HMG CoA Reductase Enzyme
  • Works on insulin receptors to improve shuttling of glucose into cells
  • Blocks cholesterol absorption in the intestine similar to plant sterols

What are some of the benefits of Citrus Bergamot?

  • It promotes fat burning and improves blood sugar control. This helps combat obesity and promotes weight loss.
  • It combats arterial stiffness due to it’s effect on sugar metabolism, and the benefits of the flavinoids it contains.
  • Can reduces LDL and triglycerides and increase HDL cholesterol
  • Helps in lowering blood pressure
  • Bergamot shows anti-tumor action and may be effective in combating neuroblastoma and other metastic cancers
  • It demonstrates anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that improve endothelial function

How is Bergamot taken?

When used for it’s cholesterol lowering effect, it would be taken in capsule form at appropriate doses, and this is where things get tricky. The medical profession knows a lot about drugs and the dosages that should be given, but not very much about vitamins, nutraceuticals, and herbs.

Citrus Bergamot capsulesDosage recommendations for this supplement are anecdotal and not the result of carefully controlled trials and years of clinical case studies and experience. Great care should be taken with this supplement, as it does mimic the effects of statin drugs, and thus could have some of the same side effects.

Given this fact, I think it’s wise to seek the advice of a complementary physician, who has knowledge of alternative treatments.

In research conducted at the Scripps Integrated Medicine Conference in San Diego California, in January 2012, they used 1,000 milligrams per day and got an average reduction in total cholesterol levels of 29%, a 36% reduction in LDL, and increase HDL cholesterol by 40%!

Reductions in triglycerides of 30%, and blood glucose of 20% on average were also noted. From this result the researches concluded that Citrus Bergamot extract at a dosage of 1,000 milligrams per day was an effective substitute for statin drugs for lowering LDL cholesterol, and also treating metabolic syndrome.

In Summary:

Citrus Bergamot is an interesting compound with some powerful effects on cholesterol metabolism, blood sugar control, and metabolic syndrome. It has demonstrated anti-tumor effects as well. However due to it’s statin like mode of action, I would very strongly suggest that you use it ONLY under the direction of a doctor who is knowledgeable about alternative medicine.

The doctor can help you determine if it’s right for you, and if so, how to arrive at a safe and effective dosage.

Research references:

Fitoterapia. 2011 Apr;82(3):309-16. doi: 10.1016/j.fitote.2010.10.014. Epub 2010 Nov 4.
Hypolipemic and hypoglycaemic activity of bergamot polyphenols: from animal models to human studies.

Fitoterapia. 2010 Sep;81(6):453-61. doi: 10.1016/j.fitote.2010.01.013. Epub 2010 Jan 20.
Neuropharmacology of the essential oil of bergamot.

Int J Cardiol. 2013 Dec 10;170(2):140-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2013.08.125. Epub 2013 Sep 8.
Bergamot polyphenolic fraction enhances rosuvastatin-induced effect on LDL-cholesterol, LOX-1 expression and protein kinase B phosphorylation in patients with hyperlipidemia.

Fitoterapia. 2014 Jun;95:83-92. doi: 10.1016/j.fitote.2014.02.009. Epub 2014 Mar 2.
Effect of Citrus bergamia juice on human neuroblastoma cells in vitro and in metastatic xenograft models.

PLoS One. 2013 Apr 16;8(4):e61484. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0061484. Print 2013.
Mechanisms underlying the anti-tumoral effects of Citrus Bergamia juice.

The MTHFR gene is a hidden culprit in heart disease and explains much in the reasons why cholesterol numbers don’t tell you what your real risk for heart disease is. Understanding how this gene defect affects your good cholesterol levels and how to treat it is essential to protecting yourself from heart attacks.

MTHFR geneWhat is the MTHFR Gene?

This gene is responsible for operating what are called “methylation pathways” that involve your body’s ability to convert certain substances into their reduced or active form. If this gene is defective in your body, these vitally important methylation processes cannot be completed properly, and certain substances (vitamins and amino acids) can’t be absorbed by your body and you develop deficiencies.

Some of these substances are:

  • vitamin b-12
  • folic acid
  • cystiene

In the case of b-12 and folic acid, these substances are converted to their active forms of methylfolate and methylcobalamin. These active forms are what your body can actually use, and so if you can’t convert them properly, you end up with a deficiency.

Cystiene is converted to the toxic amino acid homocysteine and then to methionine. If your methylation pathways are not working properly due to the MTHFR gene defect, then you end up with an accumulation of homocystiene which is highly inflammatory and causes damage to your arteries.

How is Your Good Cholesterol Level Affected?

HDL-C also called the “good cholesterol,” can be effectively lowered by a certain type of MTHFR gene defect called: C677T polymorphism.  Since HDL is protective and lowers your risk of heart disease, this gene defect can raise your risk by lowering your good cholesterol level.

There are several variants of this gene defect, and they affect cardiovascular risk in different ways, but it’s important to be aware of their impact so that you can protect yourself. Remember that 50% of heart attacks occur in people who have what’s considered normal cholesterol levels.

The affect of the MTHFR gene is seen by many researchers as the missing piece of the puzzle in trying to determine why this is so. With this information you can go about protecting yourself by applying this new knowledge and lowering your risk not only for heart disease, but also for other chronic diseases that are caused by inflammation.

What Other Problems Can This Lead To?

A defect in the MTHFR gene can also result in increase risk for the following diseases:

  • Cancer
  • Stroke
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Polyneuropathy

How Do You Know if You Have it?

This is a very important question, because once you detect this, then you can guard against it’s effects. The most simple test you can do is to eat asparagus and note if your urine has a strong odor in the hours following your meal.

If this odor is present when you urinate, (you can’t miss it), then you can be sure that you do in fact have a defect (called a polymorphism) in the way your MTHFR gene operates. There are also lab tests that your doctor can do to detect this problem.
It may be necessary to have formal lab tests done so that this problem can be medically verified. It’s also important because your doctor has to order it for your insurance to cover it. The best and most responsible advice I can give you is to go through your doctor and get tested for this.

Fortunately there are ways to treat this problem, that will work and help to protect your health, but of course the first step is to determine whether you have it or not, and your doctor can order the tests to confirm it.

What Can I Do?

A defect in the MTHFR gene results in failure to operate certain methylation pathways and convert amino acids properly. However, forms of critical b-vitamins, vitamin B-12, and Folic acid, in their “active” forms, which means they do not have to be converted or methylated, CAN be absorbed by your body and help ensure these critical chemical reactions happen as they are supposed to.

Thus instead of taking folic acid, you would take “methyl-folate.” Instead of taking vitamin B-12 (cyanocobalamin) you would take “methylcobalamin.”

There are other substances that can help. They are called “methyl donors” because they donate or provide what’s called a “methyl group” to help the chemical reaction complete properly. There are foods that contain “methyl donors,” such as garlic, onions, avocadoes, ect.

There are also nutritional supplements such as trimethylglycine, and SAMe, as well as special formulations that contain combinations of these methyl donors to help provide what your body needs to do these conversions properly.

None of these substances are drugs, nor are they prohibitively expensive. However, most mainstream doctors do not know about them, nor about defects in the MTHFR gene, and so you may have to search for a physician that is up on the latest genetic research, that can help you safely manage this problem.

The website I recommend is:

http://mthfr.net/

which is a website run by Dr. Benjamin Lynch. There is a wealth of information on this website regarding methylation issues and the MTHFR gene. If you have this gene defect, I would highly recommend that you visit this website and educate yourself.

You can also click on this video:

to learn more about this topic, and start arming yourself with powerful information that will allow you to protect yourself against heart disease, cancer, strokes, Alzheimers, and other effects of methylation problems.

My reasons for delving into this topic is that it fills in the missing information that cholesterol numbers leave out. The effects of this gene defect on your good cholesterol level is probably one of the main reasons for the increased risk of heart disease.

Defects in the MTHFR gene are one of the most significant drivers of chronic disease, and by knowing if you carry this defect, you can takes very strong steps to protect your health and to live better and longer.

references:

Cardiovasc Diabetol. 2012 Oct 8;11:123. doi: 10.1186/1475-2840-11-123.
Several genetic polymorphisms interact with overweight/obesity to influence serum lipid levels.

J Atheroscler Thromb. 2009;16(6):815-20. Epub 2010 Jan 9.
Association of C677T polymorphism in MTHFR gene, high homocysteine and low HDL cholesterol plasma values in heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia.

J Hum Genet. 2001;46(9):506-10.
An association of 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) gene polymorphism and common carotid atherosclerosis.

 

High cholesterol symptoms are not something you are going to notice. In fact they are almost non existent! The real relationship between cholesterol and heart disease kind of forced me to write this article backwards.

high cholesterol symptomsThe truth is that high cholesterol (let’s call anything beyond about 280 mg/dl high) is itself a symptom of other medical problems. You see, cholesterol is made by the body and used in all sorts of important biochemical reactions, some having to do with healing and the immune system.

Cholesterol also serves as an antioxidant as well, and your body will make more of it when you are faced with any kind of a health crisis or trauma, because it’s part of the protective and healing systems of the body.

So when cholesterol is elevated, it can be an indicator that something is wrong in the body, and that the body is attempting to heal or correct the problem.

Are there any real high cholesterol symptoms?

The answer is yes, although it’s not something that you would feel or notice on a day to day basis. It can show up during an eye examination. Your eye doctor may notice a buildup of cholesterol deposits in your eyes.

This CAN be an indicator of high cholesterol (kind of a “silent symptom”) that is itself, a symptom of other medical problems.

Arcus Senilis

There is a condition that affects the eyes called Arcus Senilis where a white or gray ring develops around the cornea of the eye.  It CAN be caused by elevated cholesterol, but not always. The rings come from cholesterol deposits but may be due to a metabolic disorder, rather than very high levels of cholesterol.

If you notice these rings, of course you should have your eyes checked, but again, this does not mean that you necessarily have a high cholesterol level. You eye doctor may recommend that you see another specialist and have the necessary tests done to determine if indeed your lipid profile (fat levels) are really elevated.

In people over 40, this condition is not all that uncommon, but really isn’t a reason for concern. In younger people it can be due to something called familial hyperlipidemia, which is a genetic condition where the person tends to have high levels of fats in their blood. In any case, if you have this condition, the best strategy is to have an eye exam and a full blood lipid screening.

The bottom line is that Arcus Senilis is a normal occurrence after 40 years of age. It’s nothing to get stressed about, but just follow up and get your blood lipids tested by your doctor. If you are a young person, it may indicate a problem with cholesterol metabolism and again should be checked out and dealt with accordingly.

High Cholesterol Symptoms That Are Silent

Again, try not to think of “high cholesterol” in and of itself as THE problem. For the most part, it’s an indicator that your body is trying to deal with another problem and the elevation in cholesterol is just it’s way of doing so. This is known in medicine as “acquired hyperlipidemia,” which means high blood fats due to some medical condition that is causing elevations in your cholesterol levels.

Your body may increase it’s cholesterol levels in response to health issues like:

  • Vitamin-D deficiency
  • Hypothyroid (sluggish thyroid function)
  • Cushings Disease (which causes chronically elevated cortisol levels)
  • Anorexia
  • Problems with your hormones and metabolism
  • Kidney disease
  • Alcoholism and alcohol toxicity
  • Diabetes and pre-diabetes

Obviously these are serious medical conditions and if you have any of these issues, your doctor should be monitoring your blood lipid profile (cholesterol and triglycerides) on a constant basis.

Drugs that Affect Cholesterol Levels

  • Estrogen and Corticosteroids (can raise HDL and Triglycerides)
  • Oral Anabolic steroids ( lower HDL)
  • Birth Control (can raise cholesterol)
  • Beta Blockers (can raise triglycerides and lower HDL)
  • Thiazide Diuretics (can raise cholesterol and triglycerides)
  • Retinoids (can increase LDL and triglycerides)

Of course if you are on any of these medications, you will have to discuss the side effects and risk to benefit ratio with your doctor. Don’t just go off medications without consulting your doctor, because this can have serious consequences.

If you are searching for an healthier or less risky alternative to drugs, that’s great, but you have to do that under the guidance of a physician who knows your medical history and can help you do so safely.

High cholesterol symptoms are a sign that there are important health issues that you and your doctor need to be dealing with. Since most people get routine lipid screenings your doctor should be aware of your lipid profile and it’s implications, but always do your own research and work with your doctor to identify problem areas and find the healthiest solutions you can for them.

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.

Carotid ultrasound  is a non-surgical and painless test that is used to determine the amount of blockage of your carotid arteries. This is done by using ultrasound to create an image of the inside of the arteries.

carotid ultrasound
This allows the physician to assess the blood flow though your arteries and detect blockages caused by plaque buildup inside the carotid arteries that could put you at risk for a stroke.

This narrowing of the arteries is called “stenosis,” and is considered to be a big risk factor for strokes. There are two such arteries, one on either side of the neck. These arteries carry blood to the brain, and if this blood flow is interrupted, it can result in a stroke.

An ultrasound imaging of your carotid arteries is one of a number of tests that can be done to determine the extent of blockage or stenosis. There are several types of ultrasounds used. If you need this screening procedure, you should discuss with your doctor which version is appropriate for you.

Types of Carotid Ultrasound

There are two main types of tests that are used to image the carotid arteries.

  • Doppler ultrasound: This test actually creates images of the blow flow though the arteries.
  • Standard ultrasound: This test creates an image of the actual structure of the inside of the arteries.

Why are these tests performed?

The doctor may order a carotid ultrasound because he or she suspects there may be blockages or other types of damage to the artery wall that can prevent blood from getting to the brain, causing what is called an ischemic stroke, which is life threatening.

The problem may be a blood clot, or something called an artery dissection which is a damaging split in the artery wall. This condition can impede blood flow, or seriously weaken the artery wall, possibly leading to a stroke.

Another problem can be a narrowing of the artery because of plaque buildup involving bad cholesterol levels, which is called stenosis. This can be indicated by something called a bruit, which is a sound the doctor hears when using a stethoscope to externally examine your carotid arteries.

These abnormal sounds can indicate stenosis, so the doctor uses the carotid ultrasound to further determine just what is happening inside the arteries. There are other things that might cause the doctor to suspect artery disease such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Advanced age
  • Diabetes
  • Bad cholesterol levels
  • Birth defects that affect the carotid arteries
  • Strokes
  • TIA’s (transient ischemic attacks)
  • Tumors (very rare)

Who would perform the test?

This test is performed by a medical professional called a radiological technician. This is a person trained in both the procedure and preparation for medical imaging scans. The test will sometimes be performed by a doctor called a radiologist. These physicians are experts on performing and analyzing the results of medical imaging scans.

The radiologist will analyze the carotid ultrasound results and give your doctor a diagnosis based on the imaging scans of your carotid arteries.

How carotid ultrasound works

The equipment operated by the radiological technician generates high frequency sound waves that are projected into your body by a hand-held instrument called a transducer. When these sound waves strike your tissue and are reflected back to the transducer, it creates an image of the shape and structure of the tissues being scanned.

The biggest advantage of carotid ultrasound is that it is non-invasive, meaning that no piercing or cutting of the skin surface is necessary, and that the scanning technology uses sound waves which are much safer than other imaging technologies that use ionizing radiation which can damage tissue.

How is this test performed?

This test is usually performed in a hospital or sometimes in an outpatient clinic. It takes about an hour and usually involves the following steps:

1) You dress in a standard patient exam gown sometimes called a Johnny. You can also wear your own clothing as long as the neck area is open and there is no jewelery around your neck.

2) You lie on the exam table, on your back, and the radiological technician applies a gel to your neck that helps the equipment make proper contact with your skin.

3) The tech will then place something called an ultrasound transducer on your skin. This is a hand held instrument that sends the sound waves into your body. As the tech moves it around on your neck it produces an image of your carotid artery and surrounding area. This process is completely painless.

4) When the ultrasound is finished the gel gets wiped off. You will have to wait a few minutes until the tech or radiologist makes sure that the scan is complete, and then they will send you home.

5) Your doctor will then contact you with the results of your scan and the diagnosis he has been given by the radiologist.

The carotid ultrasound is a very valuable test because it allows your doctor to see exactly how much plaque buildup there is in your carotid arteries and then create a treatment protocol based on this precise information. This test could warn you in time to prevent a stroke or other serious medical problem, which makes it one of the most effective tests for prevention there is.