Cholesterol: The Good the Bad and the Other Stuff

It seems that a conversation with a health care worker always comes around to things like diet and exercise. Yet, television bombards us with commercials showing succulent foods in large quantities, cooked to perfection, with smiling, happy people ready to woof it down. How does two giant burgers, topped with magic sauce or a plate of deep fried shrimp and golden French fries and accompanied by a gallon of a calorie-filled drink sound? Good?

So where is the fun in eating a salad with dressing on the side or a lean piece of beef, chicken, fish or a nutritional vegetarian meal? Can't we smile about a 4-ounce piece of broiled halibut, served with steamed, brown rice and a few steamed vegetables? The fun is enjoying your food and the company that you are with while knowing that you don't have to be a member of the “clean plate club” or be expected to eat a truckload of food when a single serving will do.            

We all seem to be aware of the fact there are health risk associated with being overweight and/or having cholesterol-triglycerides elevated.

Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in all parts of your body. It helps make cell membranes, some hormones, and vitamin D. Your body produces cholesterol in your liver, all that your body needs. You add cholesterol to your body when you eat animal foods like meats and dairy products.

Just like oil and water, cholesterol and blood do not mix. For cholesterol to travel through your blood, it gets coated with a layer of protein, lipoproteins. Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL), the “bad” cholesterol, builds up in the arteries and High Density Lipoprotein (HDL), the “good” cholesterol, helps prevent the fatty buildup.

A high intake of saturated fat, dietary cholesterol, and excess calories leading to overweight can increase blood cholesterol/lipoprotein levels. Being overweight can make your LDL level go up and your HDL level go down. Increase physical activity lowers LDL and raises HDL. Your genes partly influence how your body make and handles cholesterol. As you age, cholesterol becomes even more problematic.

Men are more likely to have cholesterol problems.

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Triglycerides in your blood are derived from fats eaten in foods or made in the body from other energy sources like carbohydrates. Calories ingested in a meal that are not used immediately by tissues are converted to triglycerides and transported to fat cells to be stored. Hormones regulate the release of triglycerides from fat tissue so they meet the body's needs for energy between meals. Hypertriglyceridema is linked to coronary artery disease and diabetes.

Liver, kidney, glucose and a variety of other components of the blood can be screened by doing blood work following and overnight fasting from food and drink. These tests are helpful indicators of your health, but don't hold all the answers.

If you have elevated cholesterol and triglycerides, additional tests might be indicated. In order to lower elevated results it will be important to change some of your life habits: cut down on calories and reduce you weight; reduce the saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet; reduce your alcohol intake, this affects your plasma triglycerides; start regular exercise. Sometimes medications are required.

Check out this Web site: Healthy Body Calculator at http://dietitian/ibw/ibw.html. This is an interesting Web site with helpful information.

The Student Health Center will conduct a Cholesterol Screening blood drawn on Feb. 6 and 7 from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Remember to fast for 12 hours. The cost is $12 for this test.

Daryl Young, a registered nurse, is the director of the Student Health Center at UAA in the Business Education Building.