Monday, September 27, 2010
If you go
■ Get your cholesterol tested at YVMC’s annual Early Blood Draws from Oct. 5 to 8 by appointment only. Cost is $30. Visit www.yvmc.org/healthfair to make a 15-minute blood draw and blood pressure check appointment, or call 970-875-2758.
■ Save the dates. The Senior Health Fair (for ages 60 and older) will be from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. Oct. 15 at the Steamboat Springs Community Center, and the Fall into Health Community Health Fair will be from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. Oct. 23 on the YVMC campus.
■ After this year’s health fair, Dr. Charlie Petersen will present a program on “You are What You Eat” in early November. Bring your cholesterol results from the health fair and find out what a healthy cholesterol target should be. For more information about this topic, visit Petersen’s website at www.mannamania.com.
September is National Cholesterol Awareness Month. When is the last time you had your cholesterol levels checked?
“One’s cholesterol number is as crucial to good health as blood pressure,” said Dr. Charlie Petersen, a Steamboat Springs internal medicine physician. “While most people have long ago accepted normal blood pressure as an important health target, many still find their lipids (cholesterol) a mystery.”
Remember that the primary risk factors for stroke and heart disease — the No. 1 causes of death and disability in the United States — are elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure, tobacco use, diabetes and family history of these diseases. The first four risk factors listed can be directly affected by lifestyle habits.
“Your blood cholesterol level is determined by the amount of fat that you choose to consume in your diet and by your genetic makeup, how much cholesterol your liver ‘is programmed’ to manufacture daily,” Petersen said. “By choosing to eliminate some foods and adding others to your diet, you can lower your cholesterol by 10 percent to 20 percent.
“The decision as to whether you make small or major changes in your diet (or even begin taking medication) of course depends on how high your initial cholesterol level is and how aggressively you want to lower it. Many people can significantly lower their cholesterol through diet alone. However, dramatic improvement often means making dramatic dietary changes.”
The primary food components that should be reduced or eliminated from one’s diet include saturated fat, partially hydrogenated oils (trans-fatty acids) and cholesterol.
Dietary cholesterol should be found only in animal fats, such as red meat, pork, poultry, fish and fatty dairy products.
“Fish is a recommended meat alternative as it is low in saturated fat and does give us healthy omega-3 fatty acids,” Petersen said.
Saturated fat is found mostly in animal-based foods with the exception of tropical vegetable oils such as coconut, palm and palm kernel.
Partially hydrogenated oils are found primarily in human-made products or processed foods. These fats raise LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol and lower HDL (or “good”) cholesterol.
Don’t be confused — there are some healthy fats. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as olive and canola oils, do not raise cholesterol.
“Eating a whole foods, plant-based diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts/seeds and legumes ideally avoids all three of the harmful food components,” Petersen said.
Combine this with weight control, regular exercise and avoiding tobacco use, and a person can lower his or her risk of heart disease by as much as 80 percent and many cancers by 70 percent.
As Petersen sums it up, “You truly are what you eat.”
Lisa A. Bankard is director of Wellness and Community Education at Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at email@example.com.