You can’t tell if someone has high cholesterol by what they look like – a fact I can personally attest to as a person with high cholesterol. I don’t look like someone with high cholesterol, as I keep getting told. The problem is I don’t really know what it means to have “high cholesterol,” so I decided to do some research and figure it out.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fat-like, waxy substance that can be found in all parts of your body. It aids in the production of cell membranes, many hormones, and vitamin D. The cholesterol in your blood comes from two sources: the foods you eat and your liver. However, your liver makes all the cholesterol your body needs. Cholesterol and other fats are transported in your blood stream in the form of spherical particles called lipoproteins. The two most commonly known lipoproteins are low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). – Johns Hopkins Health Library
I started with Controlling Cholesterol for Dummies (Rinzler & Graf, 2008), which says that a high level of LDL particles (low-density lipoproteins, also referred to as “bad” cholesterol) correlates to a higher risk of heart disease or attack (p. 17). Lipoproteins are fat and protein particles that carry cholesterol into your arteries (LDL) or out of your body (HDL). The more cholesterol in your bloodstream, the higher the risk for buildup and possible heart attack. This can also happen in cranial arteries, blocking the flow of blood to your brain and potentially causing a stroke (p. 30).
However, Cholesterol Clarity: What the HDL is wrong with my numbers? (Moore & Westman, 2013) posits the idea that cholesterol isn’t the problem we’ve been taught. In fact, the real issue may be chronic inflammation as caused by smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, consuming trans fats and processed carbs, and stress (p. 38). Cholesterol can’t accumulate in your arteries on it’s own, they need to be inflamed first.
A good indicator of this inflammation is the C-reactive protein, a level which can be checked by your doctor (p. 39). Additionally, LDL cholesterol varies in size from large, fluffy, and harmless (Pattern A) to small, dense, and potentially dangerous (Pattern B) (p. 98).
How can you get your cholesterol levels and what should they be?
Cholesterol levels are usually obtained through a blood test at your primary care physician’s office. It’s important to know your LDL and HDL numbers as well as your total cholesterol measurement since a high level of HDLs is good for your body. A high total cholesterol number can be less serious if your HDLs are high, just as a low total cholesterol number can be bad if your HDLs are low. What amounts to a dangerous level? A total measurement above 240, HDL’s below 40, and LDLs above 160 (Rinzler). The size of LDL particles can also be tested through a particle size test that can be ordered by your doctor or by individuals online (Moore & Westman, 2013, p. 99-102).
How can you manage your cholesterol?
A few simple steps should help lower your bad cholesterol level: exercise, reduce fatty food consumption, lose a little weight, and reduce damaging behaviors like smoking and drinking. Exercising and avoiding fatty foods are two categories where almost every person can find some health benefit, regardless of cholesterol level. Some resources for heart healthy cooking are the American Heart Association’s Low-Fat, Low-Cholesterol Cookbook, The DASH Diet Action Plan, Quick & Easy Cookbook, and The Mediterranean Diet for Every Day.
We’re still learning what cholesterol does for our bodies and how we can live long and healthy lives. The most important thing is to be your own health advocate. There’s nothing wrong with getting a second opinion when it comes to your health and well-being. The best thing to do with any health concern is read all the information and consult your doctor, who’ll be best suited to help you with your questions.
For more years than I can remember certain seasons have been a struggle with congestion, sneezing, itchy eyes and the uncomfortable symptoms of allergies. Only recently did I brave a visit to an allergist and discover many reactions to a variety of common allergens: grass and tree pollen, molds, dust, and much more. Now I had an explanation for why I can be sniffly all year, but much worse in the spring and fall when certain allergens temporarily explode into activity.
I had been self-medicating with over the counter drugs, but the allergist has been very helpful in trying some stronger prescriptions and experimenting with a regiment to provide more relief. I’ve learned about medications, nasal sprays, and even eye drops (I don’t do eye drops – no, I really don’t, just ask my husband). Part of the process is just trying out medications to see what works for me.
Knowing what allergens spike reactions can be helpful, but they are nearly impossible for me to avoid. The doctor also shared information about cleaning and methods to minimize allergens indoors. Hopefully, managing my exposure at home will help me to feel better and get through the worst weeks of the year.
Another treatment I’m considering is supposed to have longer-term effects: allergy shots. They work to calm down the immune response to allergens that causes the uncomfortable symptoms like sneezing and congestion. The series starts more frequently and in time can be spaced out until the allergic reactions stop or are minimized.
One of the questions I’ve been pondering is if my allergies have a relationship to my rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Both are autoimmune-related diseases with RA attacking the joints and allergies attacking my sinuses (or so it seems). While my research hasn’t revealed a connection confirmed with research, I can’t help but wonder. It makes sense to me that my aggressive RA would be linked to strong allergies.
In the meantime, I visit my doctors and pursue treatment for each condition. Seeing the allergist has been very revealing for me to understand the discomfort of allergies and what I can do to feel better. I may never know why I have these allergies, or RA for that matter, but it’s good to be on a path to treat and hopefully better manage my health.
A friend I’ve had since college and I always talked about how we were finally going to be “cool” when we were in our 40s. We have always been a bit geeky and weird and certainly a little on the fringes. In our 20s and 30s this didn’t win us any popularity contests (and, if truth be told, by the time we hit our mid-20s, we didn’t really care anymore). But we continued to joke that when we hit our 40s, we’d really have our acts together. We’d be fit, poised, and prized for our “unique sensibilities.”
Well, we’re there now, and we aren’t any of those things (well, we are prized by the people who love us). We’re not completely surprised by this lack of celebrity. We kind of knew forty-somethings weren’t where people usually looked to find trendsetters and rock stars. We are a little disappointed that we’re not in better shape, but really only have ourselves to blame for that. But the last thing we expected was to be almost invisible. Society doesn’t exactly seem to embrace women of our age, especially if we don’t look half as young as we actually are.
I know, I know, I’m sounding whiny and self-pitying (a far cry from poised and cool). But I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, mainly because I feel like I’m having to find greater balance between some of the most important and stressful things I’ve ever done in my life. Well, there’s not a lot I can do about some of the societal perils of my age, but I can probably do some things so I at least feel a bit better about myself physically and mentally. Some new help on that front may be available for me (and anyone else, 40 or not) from Dr. Pamela Peeke.
Dr. Peeke is an expert on nutrition, stress, fitness, and public health, but she mainly caught my attention with the book entitled Fight Fat After Forty: The Revolutionary Three-Pronged Approach that Will Break Your Stress-Fat Cycle and Make You Healthy, Fit, and Trim for Life. How could I not be drawn to that title? Now, Dr. Peek doesn’t just limit herself to the 40+ crowd of the world. She recently published The Hunger Fix: The Three-Stage Detox and Recovery for Overeating and Food Addiction. She also has written Body-for-LIFE for Women: A Woman’s Plan for Physical and Mental Transformation; and Fit to Live: The 5-Point Plan to be Lean, Strong & Fearless for Life.
.And, if you’re still curious about what Dr. Peeke can teach us, she’s coming to HCLS. She’s visiting June 9, 7 p.m. at the Miller Branch. Registration for the event opens on May 2. I think with some of Dr. Peeke’s help, I may able to turn into that cool forty-something yet!
A lot of up to date medical information can be found using the Internet. Since one search in Google can yield thousands of results, how do you sort out which information to make use of?
“You should approach finding medical information on the Internet the same way you would approach buying a nonfiction book…do the authors come from reputable institutions? Do they have the proper credentials? Was it published recently?” says McMaster’s Flemming, who conducts seminars and workshops on Internet health issues. 
In general, health and medical information websites sponsored by the U.S. government, not-for-profit health or medical organizations, and university medical centers are the most reliable resources. 
If you do make use of a commercial site, look to see if it has a HONcode seal (pictured above).
Okay, what exactly is a HONcode? HON stands for “Health on the Net.”
The Health On the Net Foundation (HON) is a not-for-profit organization headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The purpose of the foundation is to advance the development and application of new information technologies, notably in the fields of health and medicine. 
Where does the “code” part come in? The HONcode is a checklist of eight principles Internet users should apply to any site posting medical information. Prime among them: information must be provided by qualified professionals, and it has to be designed to support, not replace, the relationship between doctor and patient.  Compliant sites are identified by the blue-and-red HONcode hyperlink seal displayed in a prominent location.
So, before you spend too much time on any site offering medical information, make sure to follow these guidelines:
Identify the sources: Read the “About Us” section on the website you visit and notice the dates of the information to make sure content is current.
Look at the HONcode: The Health On the Net Foundation requires that medical sites meet a certain level of authoritative and credibility standards. Approved sites display a HONcode seal acknowledging their certification.
Always call your doctor: Medical sites can be helpful and educational, but you’ll always want to refer to your child’s doctor for any medical diagnosis or treatment.
 McClelland S. Users beware. Maclean’s [serial online]. June 21, 1999;112(25):58. Available from: MasterFILE Premier, Ipswich, MA.
 Miller, J. (2013, Aug 18). Savvy senior: How to find the best medical information online. Capital. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1426394474?accountid=6126
 (2000, Feb 03). PR Newswire. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/447850252?accountid=6126
Linger, even for one chapter in this massive book, and you will soon find yourself caught up in psychiatrist and National Book Award winner, Andrew Solomon’s comprehensive (albeit eloquent) and tender tribute to the myriad parents of “horizontal” offspring — that is, dwarfs, transgenders, schizophrenics, prodigies, those who commit criminal acts, and more.
Solomon’s all-embracing assertion (as a homosexual, and therefore, a horizontal child himself) is that the parents of such children, along with the children themselves, deserve voice and a raison d’etre. Even the ones certain to be defined as bad parents are given voice: Is it hard or easy to love a child that society has deemed imperfect? Does bearing a child with supreme challenges take us to the edge of an awful precipice? Or does it make us, as one mother says, “Deeper for it?”
Sue Klebold, mother of one of the two teens who committed the Columbine massacre, divested her soul to Solomon when the question was asked if it would have been better had her son never been born.
“I believe,” she said, “it would not have been better for me.”
Far From The Tree is the Camino Trail of epic reads. Take the journey anyway — if not for the privilege to walk in the shoes of some of the most diverse parents and children you will ever meet.
If you need help getting your family started on a healthier path, try Eat! Move! Play! Simple, direct, and manageable for any family!
I haven’t always been on the healthy path. There have been many years where I loved fast food! The convenience alone was worth the price I was paying. Then, I became a mom. Still, the convenience of fast food was a big factor. Then, I got divorced and started raising my daughter on my own. Still no change, and the convenience became an even bigger excuse. After a long day of work, a long drive home, and homework to do (yep, working full time and going to school), who wants to cook dinner at 6:30 at night?
Then, something changed. Finally. I started seeing myself and my habits through my daughter’s eyes. I saw how much she would expect me to stop at the drive-thru or to go get ice cream. It was then, that I saw my bad habits were creeping into her life. It had to stop. I became a part of Elf for Health, a group on Facebook, that gave daily challenges for four weeks. It wasn’t all health-driven, some of the challenges were to write positive things about yourself, call a loved one, etc. But it was the healthy challenges that started planting the seed within me. I began to understand that I needed to set better examples for my daughter. And frankly, I want to be around a long time for her- so, it was finally time to step it up.
Eating healthy and exercising are two great ways to lead by example. But there are other ways too, things we can do on a daily basis. I read an article by Steven C. Reuben for Johns Hopkins that hit the nail on the head. He said, “One of the most common teachable moments happens every time you drive your car with your kids inside” (p. 1). So true!! I am always careful when a driver cuts me off or rides my tail. If my daughter says something about a driver who cuts me off my response is this, “well, we don’t know what that person is going through, maybe they are just having a bad day or they aren’t feeling good.” (trying to keep it simple, she’s 4.)
A couple of weeks ago we were leaving Target and I saw a $10 bill on the ground next to my car. For that split second I thought, “Sweet! $10!” Then, I decided the universe was giving me a chance to teach her something, so I took that teachable moment. As I was writing a note she asked what I was doing. I explained to her that I thought the car next to mine dropped the money so I was writing a note and leaving it on their windshield. She asked, “Why?” I explained that we never know how bad that person needs that money, “it could be their lunch money.” She smiled and said that it was a nice thing to do. Teaching moment success!
Remember to pay attention, you never know when your children are watching you.