This month we celebrate love, and in health care, we pay special attention to heart health. February is National Heart Month and a great time to give your heart some TLC.
On the serious side, heart disease kills men and women of most races and ethnicities in the United States — sadly, one person every 34 seconds. Heart disease is responsible for a staggering 1 in 5 deaths in our country, amounting to nearly 700,000 per year.
One of the most important indicators of heart health is your cholesterol. The waxy material is actually something your body needs and produces in order to manufacture hormones and vitamins, as well as build cells and digest food, but too much isn’t a good thing.
Dr. Gurprit Sekhon provides superior care to patients who need to get their cholesterol under better control, and as part of every patient’s wellness exam, she monitors your cholesterol levels to ensure they’re kept on track so your heart health doesn’t suffer.
Nu Wave Medical Center offers a wide range of needed services. No matter what type of care you’re seeking, Dr. Sekhon is dedicated not just to your medical well-being, but also to empowering you as you manage your health.
“Good” versus “bad” cholesterol: what’s the difference?
There are indeed multiple types of cholesterol, and one you may be unfamiliar with:
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol
This is known as the “bad” type of cholesterol, as high amounts of it cause unhealthy plaque accumulation in your arteries. Narrowed, hardened arteries impede and can even stop blood flow to your heart.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol
This is the “good” cholesterol you’ve heard about. It assists your body in ridding itself of LDL cholesterol, transporting it to your liver so it can be processed and eliminated.
Very low-density lipoprotein cholesterol
This is another type of bad cholesterol, since it, too, leads to unhealthy arterial plaque build-up by sending both cholesterol and another kind of fat — triglycerides — to the artery walls.
Cholesterol levels that aren’t in line with what they should be pose other dangers in addition to heart disease. They put you at risk for:
- Peripheral vascular disease, where your legs and arms are affected by narrowed arteries
Learning about these risks confirms that getting your cholesterol under control is of utmost importance.
How do I interpret my cholesterol numbers?
When you read your cholesterol report, you’ll see that “mg/dL” figures prominently in it. This term stands for milligrams per deciliter, which is a measurement that reflects milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter (or one-tenth of a liter) of blood.
Cholesterol levels that are considered healthy are:
- LDL of 100 mg/dL or less
- HDL of 50 mg/dL or greater
- Triglycerides level of less than 150 mg/dL
- Total cholesterol of less than 20 mg/dL
If your cholesterol doesn’t fall within these guidelines after testing, you can get to work to lower it.
Improving your cholesterol levels
Some of the most impactful changes you can make to improve your cholesterol involve your lifestyle. Improving your diet and making sure you fit more physical exercise within each day is important, but what does that look like?
A high-fiber diet with plenty of fruits, veggies, legumes, and whole grains can lower your LDL, while increased physical activity can help raise your HDL cholesterol. Neither of these changes has to be painful.
Having oatmeal with fruit for breakfast and making a pot of chili adds needed heart-healthy foods to your repertoire.
Moving moderately for at least 30 minutes five days a week, or vigorously for 20 minutes three days a week, is also important. You don’t have to engage in punishing routines; activities like a brisk walk with your dog, gardening, biking, and even cleaning your house can count.
Avoiding certain behaviors that we know aren’t good for your cholesterol levels is advised, too. These include smoking and drinking alcohol in unhealthy amounts. Drinking in moderation means up to one drink per day for women of every age and men who are 65 or older, and up to two drinks per day for men who are 65 or younger.
If your weight is higher than it should be, Dr. Sekhon offers a medical weight loss plan, where she creates an eating and movement plan that sets you up for success. She provides critical emotional support during the process.
Sometimes you can follow all these guidelines and your cholesterol levels won’t budge enough in the right direction. If this is the case, Dr. Sekhon can also prescribe medications that help bring your numbers into alignment.
Contact the Nu Wave office at 850-493-6948 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Sekhon to discuss getting your cholesterol checked or any other concerns you have, or book one online.