By Dr. Shafiq Qaadri, MD
What is Cholesterol and why is it bad for you?
Fat in the blood, how much oil you have floating around in your bloodstream, is known as cholesterol. Having too much cholesterol over time is dangerous. Thats what leads to a slow but steady clogging of the arteries, the blood pipes, the blood vessels. Thats what leads to plaque build-up in the arteries and ofcourse the terrible effects of obesity in children, teens and adults.
And when the plumbing gets blocked, and your heart or brain doesnt get enough blood, doesnt get enough gasoline to keep the engine going, you could have a heart attack. That means that the blood supply is cut off to actually damage, to actually kill the heart muscle. And that can lead to weakness, getting tired very easily, shortness of breath, chest pain on even easy movement, and even death.
Heart disease is Canadas number one killer
Heart disease, this idea of getting your blood vessels, filled and clogged with cholesterol, is still Canadas number one killer. So its important to find out your cholesterol levels, and to make sure they are low.
LDL cholesterol is the bad cholesterol, the sticky one, the one that leads to clogging of the arteries. HDL cholesterol is the good cholesterol, the one that actually helps to clean and protect the heart; HDL cholesterol actually goes up, which is good, when you exercise.
You should get your cholesterol levels measured at least once a year, and make sure you know your targets, how low you should in fact get your cholesterol.
Your LDL cholesterol should be
- BELOW 2.0 millimoles/Litre.
That will keep your blood vessels from plugging up further, and prevent heart attacks and strokes. This is a really big deal, and unfortunately most people do not hear about this message until it is too late.
Even if your Cholesterol is normal
The other thing to mention is that it almost doesnt matter how low your cholesterol is right now, even if it is in the good normal range.
I REPEAT, even if your cholesterol is normal, Getting it lower is even better, because the less cholesterol you have the happier your heart, brain, and blood vessels are.
Your HDL cholesterol should be
- ABOVE 1.6 millimoles/Litre.
This is the good cholesterol that helps to clean and protect the heart and blood pipes. HDL cholesterol actually goes up with Regular Exercise.
Dont wait for a Heart attack. Check your Cholesterol Levels and get your LDL cholesterol down to target.
Of course, we want you to do regular Exercise and take care of your Diet. You should limit the number of eggs you have to about 3 per week, switch to 2% milk, and limit the amount of red meat such as beef and lamb to 2 to 3 times per week. Try to reach your ideal weight.
CHOLESTEROL TREATMENT RECOMMENDATIONS
BUT I STRONGLY recommend that you consider taking a CHOLESTEROL TABLET. The reason is that we as doctors are in the business of protecting you. While some people are actually able to switch their diets and lifestyle, few do it well enough and long enough. And losing weight and keeping it off are so is so challenging also.
MY EXPERIENCE is that Diet control and Exercise sound good, but they are difficult to do.
So consider taking Cholesterol tablets which essentially guarantee that you will be fully protected against Heart attacks and Strokes. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones.
As I said, DO NOT WAIT until you actually have symptoms, until you have heart attack. Take care of your cholesterol levels BEFORE.
I cannot tell you how many times we doctors REGRET meeting people who have just had heart attacks but who never bothered to take care of their cholesterol levels.
SO TAKE THIS MESSAGE TO HEART, and have a long and healthy life.
Dr. Shafiq Qaadri is a Toronto family physician and Continuing Medical Education lecturer. www.doctorQ.ca
Blood Vessel Disease and Vascular Surgery