Do you know what the different types of cholesterol are in your body? Do you know what your cholesterol levels are? Do you know why your numbers matter? Cholesterol can be a contributing factor to heart disease. It’s important to understand your numbers so you can take the best care of yourself. Making simple changes in your daily routine can help reduce your risk of heart disease. Talking to your doctor is the first step so he or she can request blood tests to help determine your risk. One of the tests the doctor may run is called a lipid profile, which checks your body’s cholesterol.
What should my cholesterol numbers be?
- Total cholesterol should be somewhere between 125 to 200 mg/dL
- LDL cholesterol is called “bad” because it can block your arteries. The level should be less than 100 mg/dL. If it starts with “L”, aim for a lower number.
- HDL cholesterol is called “good” because it helps to clear out the LDL (bad) cholesterol. This number should be greater than 40 mg/dL for men and greater than 50 mg/dL for women. If it starts with “H”, aim for a higher number.
- Triglycerides are fat found in the blood. You want these numbers to be less than 150 mg/dL.
If you don’t understand what your numbers mean, be sure to talk with your health care provider. The more you know about your numbers, the more incentive you have to make any recommended changes.
What Can Cause Unhealthy Levels of Cholesterol?
- Habits like smoking, lack of physical activity, and unhealthy eating patterns.
- Genetics (family medical history)
- Some medications
Prepping for a healthy diet
Photo source: UF/IFAS
What Can You Do to Help Lower the “Bad” Cholesterol and Increase the “Good” Cholesterol?
You can make simple changes to your daily routine to help reduce your risk of heart disease.
Eat more heart-healthy foods
- Eat foods like oatmeal, apples, and pears to give your body more soluble fiber.
- Add salmon, walnuts, and flaxseed to your diet. These are great sources of Omega-3 fatty acids.
- Eat less red meat and switch from whole or 2% milk to skim milk.
- The Mayo Clinic recommends 30 minutes of exercise at least 5 times a week.
- Find out more about how to fit physical activity into your day
- There are many different resources available to help you or someone you know quit smoking.
- Check out how to quit for quitting tobacco tips from A to Z
Drop those extra pounds
- If you lose just 5% of your body weight, it can help your heart!
- See what a 5% weight loss can do for your health
By making simple changes to your diet and lifestyle, you can help to reduce the risk of heart disease. Change takes time and effort, so don’t get discouraged by trying to make all the changes at once! Pick one habit to work on, such as slowly switching from whole milk to 2% to 1% then finally to skim milk. Once drinking skim milk becomes part of your everyday routine, choose another habit to work on, such as getting more exercise. Adding a half hour walk in the morning or in the evening is a great way to get you moving. To make the walk even more enjoyable, take your dog with you – pets need exercise, too!
Your good health is why your numbers matter. Remember, small changes can make a big difference in improving your heart health. And since February is Heart Health Awareness month, now is a great time to start.
Contributing writer – UF Intern Jennifer Bryson
Get out of your chair. Photo source: Amy Mullins
Have you ever thought about how many hours a day you spend sitting? Sitting at your desk, sitting in front of a computer, sitting watching television, sitting in the car, sitting, sitting, sitting. On average, Americans sit approximately 13 hours a day and sleep 8 hours adding up to a whopping 21 hours of inactivity. All of this sitting around may in fact be shortening our lives.
The cumulative effect of daily inactivity, or sedentary time, has contributed to a nationwide crisis of escalating chronic health conditions that include obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, certain cancers, and type-2 diabetes. According to research, including a 2014 Harvard study of over 92,000 women, the risk of dying from stroke, heart disease, and cancer increases with the more time spent standing. In addition, the negative effects of excessive sitting seem to be just as strong in people that participated in a regular exercise regimen!
Standing Has Many Benefits
Our bodies increase a fat-burning enzyme called Lipoprotein Lipase when muscles are activated. This doesn’t just happen during purposeful exercise, but even during periods of standing. In fact, standing burns 30% more calories than sitting still! Regular engagement of muscles keeps them in a more continuous metabolic state that helps improve blood cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. Regular intervals of standing with minimal movement does all of this and so much more:
- Improves posture
- Tones muscles
- Increases blood flow
- Improves metabolism
- Improves mood
- Increases mental energy
- Reduces fatigue
During a typical day at work, experts recommend not sitting for more than 20 minutes at a time with regular intervals of standing. Standing up and walking even for just 5 minutes can lift your mood, increase mental energy and productivity, and can even dull your urge for unnecessary snacking.
What You Can Do
Standing desk. Photo source: Amy Mullins
Get up and move more! Consider some of these ideas to help in your quest to be more active during the day:
- Create a culture of health and encourage others in your workplace to support one another.
- Purchase a “standing desk” or get creative and make one to meet your needs
- Use a smartphone app, wrist monitoring device (such as a FitBit), or just an alarm on your phone or desktop to remind you to stand up and stretch or to walk outside for some fresh air.
- Instead of emailing or calling a co-worker, get up and take a stroll down the hall.
- On a conference call? Stand, move, stretch, do squats or desk push-ups.
- Take the stairs as often as you can.
- Forget hum-drum meetings in the conference room! Get creative on your feet and schedule walking meetings.
- Skip the afternoon coffee and energize with some office exercises. Consider getting an exercise mat, resistance band, stability ball and light weights.
- Wear comfortable shoes and clothing to the office and enjoy part of your lunch break taking a brisk walk and/or stretching.
- Bring your own reusable bottle to work and drink more water throughout the day. More water means more times you’ll have to walk to the restroom!
It’s not easy to create positive habits, but your health is worth it. But, making even a few changes to your normal routine can put you on a path to a happier and healthier life. For additional information about healthy habits in the workplace, visit:
NIH U.S. National Library of Medicine
U.S. Division of Occupational Health and Safety
CDC Workplace Health Promotion
University of Michigan Computer Ergonomics
Can you believe it ~ we are half way through the summer season! Summertime isn’t a time to worry about the children being bored but it’s the time to enjoy some good quality time with family. Outdoor family fun can be done on any budget while helping everyone stay fit and healthy.
First, gather the family and have every member of the family write down their favorite activity. Second, look at the family’s ideas and compare them to what’s available in your local area such as: local parks, community pools, state forests and summer specials at area businesses for family-friendly events. Last, use the information that you collect to create a summer family “bucket list” and start moving.
Budget friendly activities for the family can include: walking, hiking, swimming, bicycling, tennis, kayaking (paddle sports) volleyball and bowling. Even activities such as gardening, camping, fishing, horse backing riding and boating can lead themselves to fun times and lots of movement. If you are picnicking don’t forget the Frisbee, softball or horseshoes. Get original and grab a piece of chalk and a rock to create some hop-scotch fun (add bubble wrap for additional entertainment). Summer family fun is limited only by your imagination.
Physical activity is any body movement that uses energy. People of all ages, shapes, sizes and abilities can benefit from physical activity. Being physical active can improve strength, flexibility, weight loss and/or maintenance, stress and energy levels as well as reduce the incidence of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and stroke.
Physical activity is the key to staying healthy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have set the following guidelines:
- Children and adolescents (ages 6-17) should do 60 minutes (1 hour) or more of physical activity each day.
- Adults (ages 18-64) need at least 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week and muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms). (If you’re 65 years of age or older, are generally fit, and have no limiting health conditions you can follow these same guidelines.)*
Fitting regular exercise into your daily schedule may seem difficult at first but it’s easier than you think. Spread it out and break your activity into attainable segments. Ten minutes at a time is fine. Try going for a 10-minute brisk walk, 3 times a day, 5 days a week. This will give you a total of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity.
*When to Check With Your Doctor: Doing activity that requires moderate effort is safe for most people. But if you have a chronic health condition such as heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, or other symptoms be sure to talk with your doctor about the types and amounts of physical activity that are right for you.
See this print-friendly brochure for examples of physical activity.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Physical Activity
Remember: Play, Don’t Lay
If you would like to contact Ricki McWilliams for more information, you can reach her at the UF/IFAS Extension Walton County Office (850) 892-8172.