Prac­ti­cally Ac­tive

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - Email me at: rboggs@arkansason­ ROSE­MARY BOGGS

Pre­vent­ing heart dis­ease with TLC: Ther­a­peu­tic Life­style Changes

Some­where, over the rain­bow, way up tall, there’s a land where they’ve never heard of choles­terol. — Com­edy writer Al­lan Sher­man

High blood choles­terol can af­fect any­one. It’s a se­ri­ous con­di­tion that in­creases the risk for heart dis­ease, and it’s the No. 1 cause of death for Amer­i­can men and women, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion.

While study­ing up on the is­sue I ran across an 80-page book­let on the web­site of the U.S. Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices (see You can or­der printed copies or down­load a PDF.

The book­let cov­ers the depart­ment’s TLC pro­gram, which stands for Ther­a­peu­tic Life­style Changes. It’s a three-part pro­gram de­signed to show us how to use diet, phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity and weight man­age­ment to lower choles­terol.

Choles­terol is a waxy, fat-like sub­stance found in the walls of cells in all parts of the body, from the ner­vous sys­tem and liver to the heart. Our body uses choles­terol to make hor­mones, bile acids, vi­ta­min D and other sub­stances, and it makes all the choles­terol it needs.

This stuff cir­cu­lates in the blood­stream, but since choles­terol and blood do not mix, some of the ex­cess can stick and be­come trapped on artery walls. Over time it builds up and it’s re­ferred to as plaque.

The plaque can nar­row ves­sels any­where in the body, in­clud­ing those of the heart, which are called the coro­nary ar­ter­ies. If they be­come partly blocked, the blood may not be able to sup­ply enough oxy­gen and nu­tri­ents to the heart mus­cle. Hence heart dis­ease. There are two kinds of choles­terol:

Low den­sity lipopro­tein or LDL, which is also called the “bad” choles­terol be­cause it car­ries choles­terol to tis­sues, in­clud­ing ar­ter­ies. The higher the level of LDL choles­terol in the blood, the greater the risk for heart dis­ease.

High den­sity lipopro­tein or HDL, is called the “good” choles­terol be­cause it takes choles­terol from tis­sues to the liver, which re­moves it from the body. A low level of HDL choles­terol in­creases the risk of heart dis­ease.

There are risk fac­tors for heart dis­ease that we can’t change, such as be­ing 45 or older for men and 55 or older for women, and fam­ily his­tory of heart dis­ease.

But there are fac­tors we can change, in­clud­ing smok­ing, high blood pres­sure or choles­terol, be­ing over­weight, be­ing phys­i­cally in­ac­tive or di­a­betes.

And if you need them, there are choles­terol-low­er­ing drugs, in­clud­ing statins, your doc­tor can pre­scribe.

One spe­cial con­cern for diabetics in all this is Meta­bolic Syn­drome. It’s not re­ally a dis­ease, but the name given to a clus­ter of risk fac­tors for heart dis­ease.

Its un­der­ly­ing causes are hav­ing too large of a waist and phys­i­cal in­ac­tiv­ity. That’s con­nected to in­sulin re­sis­tance, which can lead to di­a­betes.

A fast­ing blood su­gar of 100 or higher, and high triglyc­erides, choles­terol and blood pres­sure, are other parts of the syn­drome. And if you drink al­co­hol, do it in mod­er­a­tion or it can be­come a risk fac­tor, too.

Life­style changes are the main treat­ment for es­cap­ing from the syn­drome — health­ful habits that lead to low­ered choles­terol and lower other risk fac­tors. Liv­ing health­ier and longer is the goal.

I’ve been re­search­ing di­a­betes and other dis­eases for a while, and it’s amaz­ing how so many can be made bet­ter by watch­ing what we eat and be­ing more ac­tive. It sounds so sim­ple, but why does it seem so hard some days?

The TLC pro­gram can be a fam­ily af­fair. Dis­cuss your needs as a group and come up with a plan to get health­ier — to­gether.

It has to be a way of liv­ing — it’s not a quick fix. We will slip ev­ery now and then, but the main thing is that we get back up.

Don’t try to do too much at once. Break it down into small steps and cel­e­brate your suc­cess.

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