Category Archives: Kim's Cholesterol Challenge

Follow me at my new site . . .

Just wanted to post another invitation to follow me at my new website, lmwellness.com.  I notice that there are still a number of people who are visiting this site (kimthedietitian.com), yet I have not posted in many months.  I fear they must think I am lazy!  Not so.  I have just been posting in a different place.  Join me there!

Try Counting Grams of Added Sugar

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I just heard the first Christmas song on the radio yesterday!  Yes, the holidays are upon us once again.  This is the season for egg nog, cookies, candy, . . . all in excess.  That makes it a good time to take a closer look at sugar.

Most of us consume too much added sugar.  If you think you don’t, you might want to do a quick assessment.

There are 4 grams of sugar in a teaspoon.  While it is easy to look at packages and see the grams of sugar, it is more difficult to visualize what that amount looks like.  For most of us, that number in grams means very little. ” Is that a lot?” we wonder.

And then the next question arises.  After you have tallied up the number of teaspoons of added sugar in your diet, what does that mean for health?

There are different recommendations about upper limits for health.  Obviously, the less the better.  We do not need added sugar for any biological function to work optimally.  In fact, added sugars from processed foods appear to increase the risk of heart disease by contributing to increased triglycerides and causing unhealthy cholesterol particles to form.

One recommendation I have read suggests that women should aim to keep added sugars under 7 teaspoons a day (28g), and men should be under 10 teaspoons (40g).  Sound easy?  Start looking at packages and watching the sugar you add to food (and beverages!) yourself.  You may be surprised.

If you are already meeting the recommended amount, look at this as a way to pat yourself on the back for a job well done.  There can never be too many opportunities for that!

The Magic of Genetics . . . Check out the ears!

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Is this not cute?!  Admittedly, I am biased.  The big guy is my husband Peter, and the little one is Peter too (“Re – Pete”), his grandson.  This picture is now my screen saver.  It makes me smile every time I sit at my computer, which is often.

Ah, the magic of genetics. No one else in the family inherited my husband’s “elf ears” – notched and pointed (and, yes, they do stick out a bit).  When he was about 7 years old, his father told him they could be “fixed”, and he remembers never having thought about how they protruded . . . until then.  He never did “fix” them – good thing, because they are perfect as is.

Just like Little Pete’s.

Genetic effects on health are arguably even more interesting than general appearance traits like the color of our eyes or the shape of our ears.  As researchers look beyond the mere sequencing of our genes to more complex dynamic factors that interact with genes to either turn their activity on or off, it becomes even more obvious that lifestyle indeed does matter – a lot.

The food we eat is one of the most obvious ways of controlling the action of certain genes that affect our metabolism, ability to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, etc.  In other words, we are now learning through research on gene activity how poor eating increases risk for diabetes, obesity, and other chronic health issues.  That gives all of us much more power over our health than we ever dreamed possible in the past.

Exercise is another lifestyle factor that helps to keep our genes behaving in a way that promotes good health.  Amazing changes take place not only at the level of blood lipids, blood pressure, and body composition, but also at the level of gene activity.  I find this absolutely mind-blowing!  And exciting.  (See the recent report of a study done in Sweden – “How Exercise Changes Fat and Muscle Cells”.)

You and I can actually encourage our genes to “do the right thing”.  As if that is not amazing enough, a relatively new area of scientific study called epigenetics examines how many of these changes in genetic activity are actually passed down to offspring.  Wow – that’s what I say.  It just doesn’t seem to make much sense for anyone to assume that we are genetically destined to be unhealthy.  That is very good news for all of us.

I Have Mental Whiplash From My Lab Results

I had a lipid panel done at the end of April.  Looking back at the numbers (below) from the past 6 years made me dizzy!  Up and down they go – like a roller coaster ride.  I have a theory – not scientific, just personal experience – that the hormonal fluctuations of menopause are often mirrored by similar swings in lipid levels before all things settle down. Continue reading

If you remember “The Twilight Zone” (on a black and white TV) . . .

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. . . then you are probably also familiar with “The Perimenopausal (or Menopausal) Zone”.  For some women, it can be – at least at times – just as scary as the original sci-fi ’60’s TV show featuring Rod Serling as the narrator, a voice that sends an eery chill up my spine to this day.  Without my significantly older twin brothers, I would probably never have seen any of the episodes at such a young age, but that was one of the advantages of staying up later when they were in charge.

These days, nightmares do not usually keep me up at night, but night sweats occasionally do.  The journey into a new hormonal balance has felt a little creepy and mysterious.  I could do without the suspense of wondering when I will start sweating, or whether or not my energy level will carry me past 9pm. Continue reading

Earlobe Creases and Other Signs of Aging

The link between earlobe creases and heart disease surfaced again in the media recently.  A report from the University of Copenhagen study noted significant associations between ear creases, along with several other visible signs of aging, and heart disease.

This is not a new discovery, and I have mentioned it in a previous post.  Some scientists believe simple physical assessments like this could help identify those at higher risk.  Other signs that appear significant are male pattern baldness, deep wrinkles, and fatty deposits on the eyelids.

My Earlobe Crease

Is it cause for alarm if you have a crease in your earlobe?  I hope not, as I have one on my left ear.  Then again, I am in my 50’s, and signs of aging do tend to emerge over time.  Sun damage is usually more evident on the left side of the face too, since most of us spend a significant amount of time driving a car.

Based on the Framingham risk score, I am at low risk, and detailed blood work looks good, so I just keep doing what I’m doing.  It seems to be working.  Besides, I’m not aware of any way to remove ear creases once they are present.  How could removing them (plastic surgery?) help anyway?!

I also remind myself that worry and fear are not good for anyone.  Stress takes a physical toll on the human body.  I believe balance is key:  Be responsible in your self care, but not obsessively so (translation:  Do not over-worry!).  There are many factors that affect heart disease risk, and no one truly has a fail-safe way of predicting who will be affected.

Eat well, move, and manage the stress of everyday life.  Create happiness.  Worry less.  Be present more often.  Ahh . . . that was easy to write, but oh so difficult to accomplish.  We are all a work in progress!

Lifestyle Is More Important

I just read results of another study that draws a possible connection between heart disease risk and a genetically determined trait.  This time it is blood type.  I am Type A, so I am – according to this study – 8% more likely to develop heart disease.

Those with A, B, or AB blood types appear to have a higher risk than those with the O blood type.  The researchers point out that this is probably not a very powerful indicator of risk, and that lifestyle makes a big difference.

I think lifestyle is THE most important determinant of heart disease risk in almost all cases.  The expression of genetically inherited traits is influenced by how we live – how we eat, what we eat, how we manage stress, activity levels, even happiness.

As someone with a family history of heart disease, I find this comforting.  So far there is no truly accurate way to determine who is going to develop heart disease and who will not.  Cholesterol measurements in a standard lipid panel are just not very predictive of risk.  More detailed testing is better, but there is still no consensus on an accurate predictive test for heart disease.  I think it is more complex than the presence of an ear lobe crease.  Whatever our risk factors, advice is similar.

Focus on lifestyle.  Improve eating habits and stay active.  This is what we can control.