Posts Tagged ‘high cholesterol’

Control Your Cholesterol – Keep Your Heart Healthy!

Heart Disease PreventionDid you know that about half of American adults have cholesterol levels that are too high? It may also surprise you to know that all cholesterol is not bad. It is important to understand what the differences are because too much or not enough of one type or another can put you at risk for heart disease.

The majority of cholesterol comes from the body, and the remaining from food, specifically animal products. There are two types of cholesterol, HDL (good) and LDL (bad). These are called lipoproteins and they carry cholesterol to the cells.

When you have too much LDL cholesterol, it can combine with white blood cells and fats to create plaque in your veins and arteries. This can block blood from flowing through the arteries and lead to heart damage or failure. If the buildup of plaque ruptures, a blood clot can form and then prevent blood flow to the heart and brain, causing a heart attack or stroke.

HDL cholesterol works to your advantage to help unclog arteries that can be blocked by LDL cholesterol and it helps remove cholesterol from the blood. For heart health it is essential to have a high level of HDL cholesterol and low level of LDL cholesterol.

The recommended level for LDL cholesterol is under 160 mg/dL, for HDL cholesterol over 40 mg/dL for men and 50 mg/dLfor women, and under 150 mg/dL for triglycerides (blood fats). If your total cholesterol is over 200 mg/dL, you need to talk to your doctor and take action that may include:

  • Eat better – move towards a more healthy diet that is low in cholesterol, trans fats and saturated fats, and high in fiber (e.g. fruits and vegetables). Avoid food from animals (e.g. fatty meats, whole-milk dairy products and egg yolks). Maintain a healthy weight as a result.
  • Be active – one of the seven steps toward a healthy heart and a very important way for your body to create more good cholesterol and decrease your risk of heart-related conditions. Exercising at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week is recommended.
  • Regular screenings – detecting high cholesterol early can help you begin to lower it. Because high cholesterol has no symptoms, it is important to have it tested.
  • Work with your doctor to create the right treatment plan to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
  • Quit Smoking
  • Take medication if prescribed

Emory Healthcare is a proud sponsor of American Heart Association’s My Heart. My Life Campaign that promotes My Life Check – Life’s Simple 7. Controlling your cholesterol is one of the 7 steps to a healthier heart.

Learn more about The Emory Heart & Vascular Center’s Heart Disease Prevention Program.

About Dr. Jefferson Baer

Dr. Baer is a cardiologist at the Emory Heart & Vascular Center, and is the Director of Preventive Cardiology at Emory University Hospital Midtown. He specializes in general cardiology, lipid metabolism, preventive cardiology and valve disease. He is highly regarded in the physician community for his expertise in preventing heart disease.


Need a Good Reason to Enjoy Your Valentine’s Chocolate?

Heart Benefits of Chocolate

Research studies conducted over the last decade have associated cocoa and dark chocolate consumption with heart health benefits. These benefits come from cocoa derived from the cacao plant, which is rich in flavonoids (cocoa flavanols to be exact). Flavonoids are antioxidants also found in berries, grapes, tea and apples. As a whole, antioxidants prevent cellular damage and inflammation – two major mechanisms involved in the development of heart disease.

So what does the research say?

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that high-flavanol dark chocolate reduced bad cholesterol (LDL) oxidation and increased good cholesterol (HDL) levels. LDL oxidation promotes the development of plaque and hardening of the coronary arteries, thus lessening oxidation could help to prevent heart disease.1

Harvard researchers found that flavanol-rich cocoa activated nitric-oxide production, which causes blood vessels to relax and expand, resulting in improved blood flow. Better coronary vasodilation could potentially lower the risk of a cardiovascular event.2

In a double-blind randomized study, flavonoid-rich dark chocolate (containing 70 percent cocoa) reduced serum oxidative stress and decreased platelet activity (clumping) in heart transplant recipients. This favorable impact on vascular and platelet function is relevant because vascular dysfunction and platelet activation (adhesion upon damaged cell walls) are the basis of atherothrombosis (blood clotting) and coronary artery disease.3

How can you reap chocolate’s potential benefits?

Not all cocoa products and/or chocolates are created equal. Milk chocolate, for example, is not rich in flavanols and contains only 10 to 20 percent cocoa solids. White chocolate contains none at all. In addition, some cocoa products and chocolates are processed with alkali, a substance that can destroy flavanols.

Follow these tips for heart healthy chocolate consumption:

♥ Avoid cocoa products processed with alkali (Dutched) as seen in the ingredient list
♥ Choose dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa
♥ Enjoy 100 percent unsweetened non-Dutched cocoa (great for hot chocolate!)

Also, remember that chocolate is not a health food, as it is high in calories, fat and added sugar. You can make room for dark chocolate by cutting extra calories elsewhere in your diet. Additionally, stick to small amounts (e.g. 1 ounce) and don’t eat chocolate in place of plant-based whole foods such as vegetables and fruits.

About: Cheryl Williams is a registered dietitian specializing in the nutritional management of a variety of chronic conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. In her current position at the Emory Heart & Vascular Center, Cheryl provides nutrition therapy, wellness coaching, monthly nutrition seminars and healthy cooking demonstrations.

1 Chocolate procyanidins decrease the leukotriene-prostacyclin ratio in humans and human aortic endothelial cells1 Am J Clin Nutr 2001;73:36–40.
2 Flavanol-rich cocoa induces nitric-oxide-dependent vasodilation in healthy humans. J Hypertens. 2003 Dec;21(12):2281-6.
3 Dark Chocolate Improves Coronary Vasomotion and Reduces Platelet Reactivity. (Circulation. 2007; 2007 116:2376-2382).

Heart Disease: Learning the Facts and Risk Factors

Many people may not be aware of the fact that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the US. It’s estimated that heart disease will cost the US $316.4 billion in 2010—a figure that includes the costs of health care, medication, and lost productivity.

One of the most promising treatments for heart disease is prevention. Having a sound strategy for combating heart disease will also ward off other chronic diseases such as diabetes, certain cancers, osteoporosis and ongoing lower back pain. Even if you have the unhealthiest of habits, scientists state that the body’s remarkable ability to heal allows you to avoid future illnesses through lifestyle changes.

Heart healthy facts:

Exercise and diet are crucial components in avoiding heart disease. Here are some heart healthy facts that you may not be aware of:

–  Consuming eight ounces of fish on a weekly basis can potentially cut the risk of stroke in half.

–  Being 30 pounds or more over your ideal weight significantly increases your chance of having heart disease and other chronic illnesses.

–  Once you quit smoking, your blood vessels and coronary tissues will respond quickly, and your risk of heart disease will drop.

–  Even small changes, such as increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables and exercising more can improve your health and reduce risk.

–  Dark chocolate (in moderation) contains a rich source of substances known as antioxidants that can combat heart disease.

Heart Disease Risk Factors:

Studies have shown that nine out of ten patients suffering from heart disease have at least one of the following risk factors:

–  High blood pressure

–  High cholesterol

–  Cigarette Smoking

–  Physical Inactivity

–  Alcohol Use

–  Overweight/Obesity

–  Diabetes

–  Poor diet and nutrition

Do you have questions about the risk factors of heart disease? If so, I’m happy to address them in the comments.

About Jefferson Baer, MD, MPH:

Dr. Baer, the Director of Preventative Cardiology at Emory University Hospital Midtown, specializes in preventive cardiology. His areas of clinical interest include cholesterol metabolism, novel cardiovascular risk factors, and novel methods for the detection of coronary disease. Dr. Baer has been published in The American Journal of Cardiology , The Journal of Clinical Lipidolog, Current Treatment Options in Cardiovascular Medicine and the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

What is LDL Apheresis?

LDL apheresis is a procedure that targets and removes harmful Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) from a patient’s bloodstream, returning other blood components such as blood cells, proteins, antibodies and HDL back into the body. In essence, it “washes” the bad cholesterol out of the plasma of patients who are at high risk for atherosclerotic disease complications resulting from elevated cholesterol. Emory Heart & Vascular is the only Georgia facility that offers the procedure, which has proven to be effective, safe, and unique.

A single treatment of LDL apheresis has proven to lower LDL-C as much as 83%, with minimal impact on other plasma components such as HDL-C and albumin. Additionally, patients respond to it very well—no other procedure has the ability to selectively target a LDL-C treatment goal.

In order to be eligible for the treatment, the FDA stipulates that patients must first be on maximum medication and diet therapy for a minimum of 6 months, and meet the following criteria:

–       LDL cholesterol greater than 200 mg/di and documented coronary heart disease

–       LDL cholesterol greater than 300 mg/dl without coronary heart disease

This procedure has been FDA approved since 1996—since then, there have been over 25,000 treatments performed across the nation. Fortunately, most insurance policies cover LDL apheresis.

This video features Peggy Vardeman of Gainesville, one of the first patients at Emory to undergo LDL apheresis:

If you have any questions about LDL apheresis, or know anyone who could benefit from this procedure, please let me know in the comments section.

About Dr. Laurence Sperling, MD:

Dr. Sperling specializes in internal medicine and cardiology—his areas of clinical interest are cardiac catheterization, cardiac rehabilitation, general cardiology, echocardiogram, lipid metabolism, and electron beam computed tomography. Dr. Sperling has been practicing with Emory since 1997, and has received various awards from the American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association Council, and Emory University Hospital. He serves as medical director for a number of unique programs at Emory including the HeartWise Risk Reduction Program, InterVent Atlanta, Staying Aloft, Emory’s LDL aperesis program, and has served as special consultant to The Centers for Disease Control. Dr. Sperling has been voted one of America’s Top Doctors, and has been featured often on local and national TV, newspaper, radio, and magazines.