Love Your Heart

February was American Heart Month, and although we are now into the first few days of March, we should still strive to make healthy choices everyday for the love of our hearts, our bodies and our lives.

Oatmeal is considered a heart healthy food, and is such a simple yet versatile meal! Right now I am loving oatmeal mixed with a spoonful of fruit preserves and Not Nuts! Seed & Fruit Mix.

Oatmeal Mixed With Preserves and Seeds

Today’s preserves were Rhubarb-Strawberry Preserves from Trappist. Preserves and jams are a fun and colorful way to add sweetness to oatmeal instead of using brown sugar.

Oatmeal Closeup

We all know that toppings are what really makes ordinary oatmeal special, and Enjoy Life’s Mountain Mambo mix doesn’t disappoint with its combo of raw sunflower kernels, pumpkin seeds, raisins, dried apples, cranberries and mini chocolate chips. The dried apples are what really makes it special, they rehydrate in the cooked oatmeal and add little bites of apple goodness. Usually I just add a tablespoon of this and a tablespoon of that to oatmeal (various seeds, nuts and fruit) but it is nice that this comes pre-mixed so it is easy to open the bag and sprinkle some on, great for when you are half asleep in the early morning hours. 🙂

You’ve all heard the statistics, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Risk factors include inactivity, obesity, high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, high cholesterol and diabetes. While certain things like heart defects cannot be prevented, making lifestyle changes that lower or eliminate the known risks can greatly reduce your chances of being another statistic.

While exercise and healthy diets are important, it is important to know what your numbers are and track your progress.

A few weeks ago I attended a free community healthy event where the focus is on this very thing – getting to know your numbers. It only took 30 minutes of my time (did I mention it was free?) so there was no excuse not to go, you didn’t even need health insurance!

While they gave me my weight, BMI, blood pressure and waist measurements at the event, the results of the blood test were mailed to me.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or registered dietician. The following are my personal results and opinion, and while researched and posted in good faith, are merely my own personal opinion. Please consult with your own doctor before following any advice.

Fasting Blood Plasma Glucose (FPG)
Less than 100 mg/dL … Normal
100-125 mg/dL … Impaired/Pre-diabetes
126 or higher … Diabetes

Results
2011 FPG: 81 mg/dL
2012 FPG: 88 mg/dL
Increased +7 mg/dL but still within the normal range.

Total Cholesterol
Less than 200 … Desirable
200-239 … Borderline High
240 or higher … High

Results
2011 Total Cholesterol: 218
2012 Total Cholesterol: 227
Increased +9 and technically considered in the borderline high range, but this is because my HDL is high. This is where things get tricky, see below.

Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) – Bad Cholesterol
Less than 100 … Optimal
100-129 … Near Optimal/Above Optimal
130-159 … Borderline High
160-189 … High
190 or higher … Very High

Results
2011 LDL Cholesterol: 105 mg/dL
2012 LDL Cholesterol: 101 mg/dL
Decreased -4 mg/dL, (1 mg/dL away from optimal).

High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) – Good Cholesterol
Less than 40 (men), 50 (women) – Major Heart Disease Risk Factor
60 and above – Gives Protection Against Heart Disease

Results
2011 HDL Cholesterol: 98 mg/dL
2012 HDL Cholesterol: 112 mg/dL
Increased +14 mg/dL.

Very Low Density Lipoprotein (VLDL)
0-32 mg/dL – Normal

Results
2012 VLDL: 14 mg/dL
Middle of normal range. 

Triglycerides
Less than 150 mg/dL … Normal
150-199 mg/dL … Borderline High
200-499 mg/dL … High
500 mg/dL or higher … Very High

Results
2011 HDL Cholesterol: 77 mg/dL
2012 HDL Cholesterol: 70 mg/dL
Decreased -7 mg/dL, well within normal range.

I was very happy with my numbers this year. The only number that I am a tiny bit concerned with is the fasting blood glucose. While it is in a good range, it did raise quite a bit from last year. I’m just going to keep an eye on that one so it doesn’t raise any higher. My overall cholesterol number is high, but this is due to my high HDL numbers. Doctors now look at the ratio to determine your overall risk. Here are the tables for determining ratios.

Total Cholesterol to HDL Ratio
Low Risk … 4.0 (men), 3.8 (women)
Average Risk … 5.0 (men), 4.5 (women)
Moderate Risk … 9.5 (men), 7.0 (women)
High Risk … >23.0 (men), >11 (women)

Results
2012 Cholesterol to HDL Ratio: 2.0
Low risk. 

LDL to HDL Ratio
Low Risk … 1.0 (men), 1.5 (women)
Average Risk … 3.6 (men), 3.2 (women)
Moderate Risk … 6.3 (men), 5.0 (women)
High Risk … 8.0 (men), 6.1 (women)

Results
2012 LDL to HDL Ratio: 0.9
Low risk.  

I was doing some research, and having an HDL number above 100 is not that common (from what I have read) so I feel very fortunate. I believe that my HDL is high because I eat a lot of avocados, beans and oatmeal – which are all said to raise this number. So while my diet may not always be perfect (I splurge on foods all the time), eating healthy foods really help to balance things, I truly believe that. Now that I am eating salmon (I had not been incorporating it into my diet previously) I wonder if it will go up even more! Exercise and not smoking also help keep your numbers within a good range.

Your cholesterol picture is more than just the overall number, the ratios are what is important. It is also said that LDL particle size plays a role. How do you find out your particle size? A ployacrylamide gradient gel electrophoresis (PGGE) test is used to measure particle size and determine if you are a Pattern A (large, buoyant particles) or a Pattern B (small, dense particles). Larger particles are said to be better because they float through the blood stream without attaching to walls of blood vessels. There is also a Vertical Auto Profile (VAP) Cholesterol Test, which is a more detailed than the standard Lipid Profile, and I believe this tells you LDL particle patterns. I am not sure what the difference is between a PGGE and a VAP, I want to do more research on this.

Another ratio that I did not talk about here is the ratio of HDL to Triglycerides. Low HDL combined with high triglycerides is cause for concern.

For now, I don’t feel a need to do any more detailed testing as all numbers point to a desirable cholesterol situation. I am enjoying learning more about all of this though, as I get geeked out about these kinds of things. It is fascinating to think of low density lipoprotein (LDL) particles depositing cholesterol to tissues and then the high density lipoprotein (HDL) particles carrying cholesterol away from tissues to the liver where the body can get rid of it. It is amazing how the balance of these things, along with other factors, make up your overall portrait of health.

There is a lot of learn about cholesterol and all the different ratios, particle sizes and different view points and studies, and I don’t claim to know it all. I do encourage you to do your own research (if you haven’t already) and learn all you can about it.

Knowledge is power, and if you don’t know your numbers, make an appointment to get them now so you have a baseline to compare to. It is worth knowing for peace of mind, and if they are less than ideal you still have time to change them around!

What are your favorite heart healthy foods? Do you have a go-to oatmeal combo? Do you go with old fashioned rolled oats, steel cut oats or instant oats?

Remember to ♥ your ♥! And ♥ someone else’s ♥, too. 🙂

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Categories: Health, Nutrition | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Love Your Heart

  1. I love oatmeal, though it doesn’t keep me as full as eggs for breakfast. On weekends, I’ll make a batch of cinnamon-apple steel cut oats (http://thewholekitchen.wordpress.com/2008/11/20/apple-cinnamon-steel-cut-oats/) – they taste like apple pie! During the week, if I feel like oatmeal, I’ll either make whipped banana oatmeal (so fast!) – http://www.katheats.com/kaths-tribute-to-oatmeal – or just old fashioned oats with a spoon each of peanut butter and jelly. Yum.

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