The Ins and Outs of Cholesterol


By: Nikki Nies

Often times the words “bad” and “good” are associated with cholesterol, but what defines good and bad you ask?  Let’s rewind a bit and go over what the word cholesterol means.  Cholesterol is composed of a waxy, fat like substance that is made in the liver and can be found in certain foods (i.e. eggs, dairy products and meats).  Cholesterol travels through the bloodstream with the help of an attached protein, called a lipoprotein.

A certain level of cholesterol is needed for the body to function properly: its cell walls, or membranes need cholesterol to produce  vitamin D,hormones and the bile acids  to help digest fat.  However, problems can occur when too much cholesterol builds up, called plaque, in the walls of one’s arteries.  Plaque is a thick, hard deposit and with enough plaque, the build up will make the passage of the blood to the heart harder.

Problems associated with cholesterol:

  • The build up of plaque, called artherosclerosis can then lead to heart disease
  • Angina, also known as chest pain, can occur where there is not enough oxygen carrying blood to reach the heart
  • Heart attack: Can occur if complete blood supply to portion of heart is blocked off by total blockage of a coronary artery

Cholesterol travels through the bloodstream with the help of an attached protein, called a lipoprotein.  There are 3 types of cholesterol, classified depending on the ratio of protein to fat.

Type of Lipoprotein


Very Low Density lipoprotein (VLDL) Similar to LDL; contains mostly fat and not much protein
Low Density lipoprotein (LDL) Considered “bad” cholesterol; can cause the buildup of plaque on walls of arteries; increased LDLàincreased risk of heart disease
High density lipoproteins (HDL) Called “good” cholesterol; helps body get rid of bad cholesterol in blood; decreased HDLàincreased risk of heart disease
Triglycerides Another type of fat; carried in blood by VLDL; derives from excess calories, sugar and alcohol in body are converted into triglycerides; stored in fat cells throughout body


Those 20 years or older should get their cholesterol levels checked at least every 5 years.  A fasting cholesterol test is a common way to gauge one’s heart health. It’s recommended total cholesterol remains under 200.

Ways to Reduce Cholesterol Levels and Prevent Heart Disease:

  • Moderate Exercise:  Can help reduce the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and maintain weight control, which can decrease chances of heart disease
  • Quit smoking: Smoking lowers HDL levels
  • Heart Healthy Foods: The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends one limits daily intake of cholesterol to less than 300 mg; if one already has heart disease, it should be less than 200 mg; limit intake of saturated fat; moderate intake of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • Medications and Cholesterol lowering drugs: i.e. statins; niacin, bile acid resins

Remember, your body makes all the cholesterol needed for regular function.  That doesn’t mean you should refrain from cholesterol rich foods (i.e. eggs), but moderation is key.  High cholesterol is leading cause of heart disease, but it is preventable.  What changes can you make to your daily life to stabilize your cholesterol levels?


Role of Reservatrol in Your Health

By: Nikki Nies

You may have heard recommendations to drink a glass of wine at dinner.  It’s not for the added taste, but the health benefits of drinking wine, specifically red wine, has been recommended by many physicians.

Now you might be wondering why red wine’s considered to be healthier, well, it’s because the grapes’ skin, which contains antioxidants called resveratrol, is still in tact during the production of red wine. In regards to white wine, the skin and seeds of the grapes are removed before production, which also removes some great health benefits.

Perceived Benefits:

Original Image by Jing via Flickr
Original Image by Jing via Flickr
  • Contains resveratrol–May prevent heart disease, reduce inflammation, prevents blood clots, reduces LDL levels
    • Resveratrol’s a phytochemical found in many fruits, such as billberries, blueberries, grapes, cocoa, cranberries, peanuts and walnuts
    • May be helpful in treating neurological diseases—i.e. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s as reservatrol can help in the formation of nerve cells
    • Preserves muscle fiberContains flavonoids, which polyphenols that may protect the lining of the blood vessels in one’s heart

  • Increases “good” cholesterol levels–High density lipoprotein (HDL)
  • Protects against artery damage
  • May reduce risk of dementia
  • May decrease fat absorption into body
  • May prevent hearing loss
  • May favorably influence lipid profiles following one’s meal
  • Contains flavonoids, which are polyphenols that can protect the lining of the blood vessels in one’s heart
    • The relationship between the sweetness of wine in relation to number of flavonoids—the sweeter the wine, the fewer the flavonoids

As with many health claims, yes, there has been research done on the perceived benefits,  but one can’t assume consuming wine regularly will be the magic “potion” needed to prevent the aforementioned activities to subside.

**It’s recommended 5 oz. of wine daily can provide the benefits sought from drinking wine**

So to reap the most benefits of your glass of wine, choose Merlot, Chianti, Pinot and you’re good to go! Enjoy!



Swim, Swam, Swum

By: Nikki Nies

Original Image by Greg L. photos via Flickr
Original Image by Greg L. photos via Flickr

My dream house would have a pool with a retractable roof.  Now, I’m sure some of might think, what an unnecessary entity.  However, hear me out.  If I had my own pool year round, I would get the best workouts in and during the summer I could get my tan on as well!

I really only learned how to swim a few years ago.  Okay,  you can judge me with that, but once I got into the water I learned quickly found my place in the exercise realm.  Pools are an undervalued aspect of any part of realty.  You can lounge anywhere, but if you’re heading to the pool, use it! Heading to the gym?  Make sure to sign up for one with a pool included!

Don’t have a pool?  Lakes, ponds, oceans can do as well.  Do whatever you have to get into some water.

Swimming provides an additional realm of exercise:

  • feeling and looking younger
  • enhances energy
  • improves flexibility
  • healthier heart–makes it more efficient in blood flow
  • can curb inflammatory response
  • burns quick calories–for every 10 minutes: the breast stroke will burn 60 calories; the backstroke torches 80; the freestyle lights up 100; and the butterfly stroke incinerates an impressive 150
  • may live longer
  • can reduce asthma related occurrences
  • increases HDL–“good cholesterol”
  • decreased risk of diabetes
  • relieves stress
  • increases endurance
  • increases confidence
  • form of exercise that doesn’t do harsh impact to skeletal system
  • works stiff joints and muscles
  • suggested for those with arthritis–improves bone strength
  • a form of aerobic workout

How many more benefits do you need to be convinced that swimming’s a great exercise with great results?  Go ahead for a swim, it’s a nice day out today :).

Those that are expending energy, such as moderate to intense exercise, need increased energy needs.  This pyramid provides more information about increased servings and needs for those that do physical activity regularly.