June 12, 2004
Assessing Your Heart Health
A heart attack can be fatal
when one or more arteries supplying blood and oxygen to the heart
narrow. This narrowing is caused by plaquea thick, waxy, yellowish
substance. Plaque formation begins in the teens and eventually can
cause shortness of breath, pain, and finally heart attack. In addition
to plaque formation, there are other factors that can significantly
affect heart health.
Homocysteine is an ugly amino acid that weakens artery walls through
free radical damage. Increased levels of homocysteine in the blood
can deplete the body of folic acid.
Triglycerides are the form in which your body stores fat. If you
have elevated triglycerides (a level of 190 mg/dL or greater), you
run a greater risk of coronary artery disease.
The liver is the primary producer of the fatty, yellowish, waxy
substance known as cholesterol. Cholesterol also can be taken into
the body through dairy products, meat, and fish. Cholesterol is
not soluble in blood, so the body packages it with a protein that
allows it to mix with blood. The levels of these cholesterol-protein
mixtures are critical in maintaining a healthy heart. Low-density
lipoproteins (LDLs) carry cholesterol in the blood, and high levels
of them can build up, damage the inner lining of the blood vessel
wall, and form plaque. For this reason, LDLs are known as bad
cholesterol. High-density lipoproteins (HDL) or good
cholesterol help transport excess cholesterol back to the liver,
empty it into the intestinal tract, and excrete it from the body
through bowel movements. I recommend you ask your doctor to do a
blood test for HDL, LDL, and total cholesterol.
Here’s what your results should show:
Total cholesterol levels should be
less than 180 mg/dL.
LDL levels should be less than 130
HDL levels should be about 55 mg/dL;
HDL levels less than 35 mg/dL are a risk factor for women.
Also: The ratio of LDL to HDL is important and should be
no higher than 4:1. If your HDL is 30 and your LDL is 150 then your
ratio is 5:1, which puts you in the high-risk category.
REMEMBER: You want your HDL level
to be high and your LDL level to be low because they perform different
tasks in the body. HDL is responsible for getting cholesterol to
the liver where it can be broken down and excreted. High LDL levels
mean more bad cholesterol in the blood that can’t be
efficiently transported out.
Read More on Heart Health:
Different Gender, Different Symptoms
Quiz: What Is Your Risk of Heart Disease?
Keep it SIMPLE Heart tip Fiber, Fiber, Fiber
Foods That Help Your Heart, Foods That Hurt It
Mineral Deficiencies Lead to Heart Problems
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