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  The Minority/ Black Health Blog  

Friday, February 8, 2013

High Cholesterol + African Americans = Early Deaths For Thousands Each Year

African American With High Cholesterol
Let's talk about the heart, not because it's almost Valentine's day, but because thousands of African Americans are still dying unnecessarily every year from heart attacks due to high cholesterol. Many don't even fully understand what cholesterol is, let alone what's the difference between good cholesterol, bad cholesterol, and triglycerides. So what do they all mean? And how do they affect our health?

Cholesterol is fat produced by the liver and is necessary for the normal functioning of the body. What is often referred to as good cholesterol is actually high density lipoprotein (HDL) that takes cholesterol away from the cells and back to the liver where it is then eliminated from the body as waste.

Bad cholesterol, or low density lipoprotein (LDL) carries cholesterol to the cells. Too much in the cells can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Triglycerides are a kind of fat found in food and stored in body cells for energy. Too much stored body fat, especially in the belly area, poses a health risk.

Here are three tips for lowering your cholesterol levels:

1) See A Doctor First and Take A Blood Test.To determine if your cholesterol is too high, you should first see a physician and request a blood test. You can also learn from him/her about foods that will increase bad cholesterol and triglycerides; these are the ones that can get out of control and cause serious health problems. Bad cholesterol is the biggest threat to the heart because it builds up in the arteries and leads to heart attacks and stokes. Strokes kill four times more 35- to 54-year-old black Americans than white Americans. Blacks have nearly twice the first-time stroke risk of whites.

2) Minimize Your Intake of Junk Food and Fast Food.
Foods full of sugar and calories quickly raise triglyceride levels and saturated fats raises bad cholesterol levels. These are found in fast foods, red meat, pastry, pies and cakes (anything made from sugar and refined flour), candy, soft drinks and more. How much is recommended? The American Heart Association recommends that food with saturated fats should represent less than 7 percent of total calories consumed daily. So, if daily calorie intake is 2,000, only 140 of those calories should come from food with saturated fat. That’s about 16 grams of saturated fats a day. To find out how many grams of saturated fat are in foods requires just reading the label.

3) Eat More Fruts and Veggies.
Everyone knows they should do this, yet this is exactly what most people don't do. Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and even whole grains and oats can take the place of saturated fat foods. It is not a diet but a lifestyle change to healthier eating habits. Of course, keeping a normal body weight and exercising more is also helpful and produces numerous other health benefits.

In all your efforts, the idea is to keep the good cholesterol numbers high and the bad cholesterol and triglycerides low. The recommended numbers are 60 or higher for good cholesterol, below 130 for bad cholesterol, and below 150 for triglycerides. Ideally, the total cholesterol level should be under 200. However, the overall number can be deceiving. If the total number is 200 but most of it consists of bad cholesterol and triglyceride levels, the health threat still exists.

For more details, visit the American Heart Association's web site at:
DISCLAIMER: The content or opinions expressed on this web site are not to be interpreted as medical advice. Please consult with your doctor or medical practitioner before utilizing any suggestions on this web site.