Sunday, March 13, 2011

Chapter 2 page 259 - HDL info & update

I'll save you the full out recap of my lifestyle revolution (feel free to browse the archives if you've missed hearing all about it). A few days ago I posted my 5 week cholesterol/triglyceride progress report which, after all, was the kick in the pants I needed in order to redirect my lifestyle to a more healthful.

I could NOT be more pleased with the 50 point total cholesterol drop and 60 point triglyceride drop that I have achieved in just 5 short weeks; however, I was completely shocked and saddened by the 12 point HDL drop that accompanied the other good numbers. I am fairly well versed in what HDL is and ways to increase it, but I googled to see what made it lower so quickly and reviewed ways to increase it.

Let me preface this explanation by saying I was a middle school teacher so . . .
For those who are a little less familiar with HDL, here is some background info. HDL a.k.a. "the good cholesterol" acts like a pac-man (told you I taught MS) and goes around gobbling up the LDL a.k.a. "the bad cholesterol". The more of the HDL you have, the better. Much research supports the claim that a low HDL level can be a greater cardiovascular disease risk factor than either higher total cholesterol or high triglycerides. (sigh) HDL is not easy to increase, by that I mean you can do everything perfectly and still end up only increasing your HDL level by a few points (that said, every single point higher is that much more protection against heart disease).

To increase one's HDL there are a few tried and true practices:
1. Loose weight - I've lost 15 pounds in 6 weeks and have a LONG way to go; I've joined I'm a Sleeper Baker's 10 pound challenge . . . did you?)
2. Exercise (at least 150 minutes a week) - I usually get this in especially since I'm a super slow runner - ha! As I ran alone on Tuesday, I kept thinking "I'm raising my HDL by doing this."
3. Don't Smoke - no problem, never smoked

4. Consume healthy fats (mono & polyunsaturated) - flaxseed, olive oil, canola oil, fish, walnuts, almonds, pistachios to some extent - this is my down fall, I just don't use ANY oil EVER in my cooking and I rarely eat nuts, but I have now added a handful of nuts daily and will continue to do so. I'm not a big fish fan and living in a SMALL midwest town, it's not all that plentiful/available. You may remember, the doc advised taking fish oil which I may have to do, but first, I'm trying to alter my diet to see what impact that can have.
5. Eat 1 square of dark chocolate daily (must be at least 70% cocoa) - I HATE dark chocolate, but I figure if anyone can make dark chocolate taste good, it's gotta be DeBrands so I'm going to stop by the DeBrands shop and get some . . .consider a square added to my daily routine starting soon- yuck! I told "C" I might eat it with my nuts, that might make it easier to gag down. Isn't the bar cute - it's scored into nibbles, bites, & chunks (photo source)
6. Drink 1 6 oz glass of red wine daily (for women, men can have 2 glasses) - I have decided to try to do this at least 4 nights a week. I'm not a big alcohol drinker and I've come across mixed recommendations on this - those with elevated triglycerides should not drink wine . . . uggg what to do??? I might let this one slide. I don't enjoy the taste, but I do LOVE helping my heart. We'll have to see if this one becomes a permanent part of my lifestyle revolution or not.

7. Limit refined sugar intake - refined carbs "gobble up" the HDL - I've come a LONG way in the last 5 weeks with this one. I used to be a sugar addict. I could tighten things up a bit more, but I'm scared of going off the deep end and jumping head first into a box of donuts or something so . . . for now, I'm really trying to enjoy treats in moderation.
8. Increase fiber intake - I'm doing this by choosing whole grains over enriched/bleached flours as well as by ensuring I consume 5-9 servings of fruits & veggies daily.
Here is a photo of my nightly "snack" (I have done this 5 for 5 nights this week):

photo: 1/2 cup of fresh blueberries, 1/4 cup of plain walnuts, 6 oz red wine . . . can't you just feel my HDL skyrocketing??? SMILE!

I've spent a lot of time reading up on my HDL and came across the following information in more than one place so I'm really hoping it is the explanation for my sudden HDL tank-a-palooza:
"Sometimes, a temporary drop in HDL occurs when major changes have been made in
the diet and total cholesterol has been lowered significantly. For most people,
HDL levels will rise again if the diet changes are maintained." source


  1. Sounds like you have a realistic plan with achievable goals. Good luck!

  2. Those almost all sound like good ideas.

    The only one I would be cautious of is the wine. In small portions I believe it's fine for us but the issue is calories. If you start adding a glass of wine to your daily diet you will need to remove calories elsewhere to maintain your weight loss. One glass could be anywhere from 90 to 140 calories depending on the sweetness of the wine.

    I have been trying better at using wine / dessert as treats and never both in one day. It's hard to get well balanced nutrition when we drink any calories! Then we are missing out on good calories, ie. veggies.

    Just some food for thought!

  3. Did you have a second glass of wine for me? Ha!

    As far as the dark chocolate, try adding it to oatmeal. This morning, I made oatmeal with dried cherries, cocoa powder and Truvia - YUM. You can definitely sub out the cocoa for dark chocolate and sweeten as need be.

    Keep up the good work!