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Cholesterol Levels and Carbs
Old 09-08-2007, 12:06 PM   #1
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Cholesterol Levels and Carbs

We live in one of the Ohio towns hit very hard by flooding. Luckily we were not directly affected. My husband is a volunteer for the local Red Cross so he put in 15-16 hour days for 2 weeks straight which included lots of physical work (loading and unloading supplies) as well as lots of walking. Usually, he is moderately active doing things around the house and yard or driving part-time for the local dealership. No smoking, very light drinking, normal weight, normal blood pressure, no family history of diabetes or heart disease but a history of high cholesterol (93 year-old mom's is 300).

I have a home cholesterol tester and test him once a month trying to encourage him to get and keep his cholesterol level down. Testing makes it slightly more difficult for him to be in denial when the numbers are in front of him. Because he has been eating at the Red Cross kitchen, I was worried his cholesterol was going to be up even more than usual but when I tested him this morning (fasting) his total cholesterol was down about 50 points to around 220. I tested him twice because I couldn't believe it.

My guess is he was eating more cholesterol containing foods than we do at home but his snacking was very limited. IMO, he is addicted to carbs and eats way too many of them (pop, chips, pretzels, crackers, bread, etc.). Three years ago we were potentially going to have to purchase individual health insurance so I had to get his level down. I was home to cook "healthy" meals (high fiber, low cholesterol) and I removed all the snack stuff from the house. His cholesterol level dropped 80 points in 3 weeks but since I dropped his cholesterol intake and dropped his carb intake at the same time, there was no way to tell which change had the biggest effect.

Now the reduction in carbs in confounded with an increase in physical activity but it seems very significant to me his cholesterol level dropped significantly both times when his carb intake was severely limited. Can carb intake have such a significant effect on cholesterol levels?
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Old 09-08-2007, 01:51 PM   #2
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We live in one of the Ohio towns hit very hard by flooding. Luckily we were Now the reduction in carbs in confounded with an increase in physical activity but it seems very significant to me his cholesterol level dropped significantly both times when his carb intake was severely limited. Can carb intake have such a significant effect on cholesterol levels?
I don't know but I would really like to find out. Where can I get a home cholesterol level tester? I've never heard of that.
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Old 09-08-2007, 02:10 PM   #3
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Can carb intake have such a significant effect on cholesterol levels?
A lot of middle-age men suffer from metabolic syndrome. For those guys, carbs can have a pretty dramatic effect. Those home tests aren't very accurate from what I understand, and they only measure total chol.

Total cholesterol = LDL + HDL + Triglycerides/5.

Carb intake tends to lower HDL ("good" chol) and raise TriG. BTW, dietary cholesterol has little or no effect on serum cholesterol AFAIK.
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Old 09-08-2007, 02:12 PM   #4
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I bought mine at Costco.com: Offering thousands of items you won’t find in your local Costco.. I think drugstore.com Online Pharmacy - Prescription Drugs, Health and Beauty, plus more has them also. Test strips are a bit expensive but I consider them worth it. The tester I have is a CardioChek. You can purchase test strips for total cholesterol, strips for HDL only, and strips for triglycerides. I use my Section 125 money to pay for the strips (and the device) with pre-tax money.
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Old 09-08-2007, 02:13 PM   #5
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Twaddle - dietary cholesterol combined with saturated fat is the problem, right? I didn't mean cholesterol all by itself. Eat the eggs but hold the bacon and sausage.

The tester seems to be pretty accurate. My husband had a blood test done by the doc and the tester was within 10 points. Also, when we were preparing for the private insurance, the tester said my hubby was in the good range and so did the insurance company. I never got the exact reading from the insurance company but the tester said he was about 215. Given that he was 54 at the time, I'm guessing he couldn't have measured more than 220 by the insurance company or he would not have received the preferred rate.

I'm not looking for an exact number from the tester but an idea of the range he is in. I'd rather see readings of 215, 217, 220 rather than 268, 275, 285.
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Old 09-08-2007, 02:13 PM   #6
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To lower your cholesterol, you should avoid high fat and high cholesterol foods, but also foods containing ingredients that can metabolize into fat once ingested. Carbs are among such ingredients. If not consumed immediately by the body, the carbs are metabolized into fat and stored in the body for later use. So in order to lower your cholesterol, you need to watch your cholesterol, fat and carb intake. At least that's what my doctor (back in Europe) says. Where did you get your cholesterol level tester?
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Old 09-08-2007, 02:19 PM   #7
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Twaddle - dietary cholesterol plus saturated fat is the problem, right? I didn't mean cholesterol all by itself.
What he should really be concerned about, IMO, is the ratio of LDL to HDL.

Yes, saturated fat tends to raise LDL a bit, but it can also raise HDL to counter the health effects. Transfat is the worst: raises LDL and lowers HDL. Carbs tend to lower HDL and raise TriG, which may be just as bad or worse.
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Old 09-08-2007, 02:36 PM   #8
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Twaddle - last test results prior to Red Cross work were HDL 53 and LDL 195 for a ratio of 5.3 and a total of 283. The results page said 5.0 was the top of the good range so he was out of the good range.

No trans fat in the house. He is aware of dangers of trans fat but not sure what goes in when wifey is not looking. He's not a fast food junkie, thank goodness.
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Old 09-08-2007, 03:05 PM   #9
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No smoking, very light drinking, normal weight, normal blood pressure, no family history of diabetes or heart disease but a history of high cholesterol (93 year-old mom's is 300).
This fact about his Mom should tell you not to worry much about cholesterol.

I never even had my cholesterol checked until I was in my mid-fifties. I eat meat including bacon as often as I want, which is often. I eat 15 or more eggs a week. What I don't eat is concentrated carbs. I consider grain to be cattle feed; my carbs are almost exclusively veggies and some fruit. Sugar is feed stock for ethanol, not fit for human consumption. I don't drink beer; wine and bourbon are my poisons of choice.

I am never hungry, I weigh a bit less than I weighed when I graduated from high school.

And my genetics are problematical; my sibs who eat a typical diet are troubled by all the usual western maladies.

My cholesterol is middling, but my ratios are pretty good.

I'd say read some of the saner low carb diet books and think over what they have to say.

Ha
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Old 09-08-2007, 03:21 PM   #10
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Twaddle - last test results prior to Red Cross work were HDL 53 and LDL 195 for a ratio of 5.3 and a total of 283. The results page said 5.0 was the top of the good range so he was out of the good range.

No trans fat in the house. He is aware of dangers of trans fat but not sure what goes in when wifey is not looking. He's not a fast food junkie, thank goodness.
Those numbers imply a TG level of 130. I think docs look for TG>=150 before they worry about insulin resistence. His HDL looks good, too. So don't worry too much about carbs (yet).
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Old 09-08-2007, 03:37 PM   #11
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Twaddle - the triglycerides were 175. In addition, the fasting glucose was 110 which was over the upper limit of 106 on the lab sheet.

175/5 = 35 + 53 HDL + 195 LDL = 283
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Old 09-08-2007, 03:47 PM   #12
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Ouch. In that case, worry about carbs. Has he seen a doc? Those are potentially pre-diabetes numbers.
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Old 09-08-2007, 03:47 PM   #13
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I've done a fair bit of nutritional reading and have seen mentioned more than once that your body makes most of the cholesterol that's in your blood, and it's not affected much by how much cholesterol you eat.
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Old 09-08-2007, 04:34 PM   #14
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I've read that high LDL is strictly a dietary problem. But my dr says its genetic. I don't know. My friend's total number is higher than mine but her dr didn't tell her to go on Lipitor. And she was accepted by a health insurance company that I was rejected by. Sigh.

I wonder how my numbers compare to those of others my age and did your dr tell you to go on statins? Mine numbers were, last year, total 234, LDL 171 HDL 51, Triglycerides 64. I exercise alot, vigorously, but I have an ice cream and scone habit. Also am overweight by 30 lbs.

I really need to get a handle on this. So if anyone has magic advice, besides weight control and eating more veges, that worked for them I'd sure appreciate hearing about it.
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Old 09-08-2007, 04:35 PM   #15
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Twaddle - After two weeks of being very, very active and having no time to snack, I am pretty sure his numbers look much better (the home cholesterol test as an indication) but I will get him to the doc to get another blood test to document things.

In the end, there is not much the doc can do if DH does not take control of his carb addiction. I have been questioning his carb consumption for some time (ok, nagging) but how well does an addict listen when you tell him it's time to give up his drug of choice? I read him your comment and his eyes got real big so maybe something is sinking in. Too many people assume their health is okay until it's not and then it's too late. Maybe I can get him to catch a clue before he's done some permanent damage.
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Old 09-08-2007, 05:02 PM   #16
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Oldbabe - My advice is to eat more veggies and join Weight Watchers to lose weight and keep it off. Oops, guess that won't work because you wanted the magic pill and not the above advice.

I did Weight Watchers and lost 40 pounds (still a practicing Lifetimer) after my hubby got offered preferred insurance rating and I got standard for being overweight! He's 9 years older and male so that shows the insurance company puts a lot of weight (pun intended) on extra weight.

Is your friend of normal weight? Could that have been the difference with respect to the insurance?
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Old 09-08-2007, 07:37 PM   #17
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Oldbabe,

I do believe that there is a genetic factor affecting your cholesterol level. I have a body mass index of 22 (normal weigth for my height), eat healthy foods (little meat, lots of fruits and veggies), but still have high cholesterol. My father and his mother both have high cholesterol levels (total cholesterol at 300+ for both), but so far neither have had heart problems (my dad is 60, my grandma is 85). By following a low saturated fat diet, I can keep my cholesterol level down, but it is higher than what is usually recommended. My doctor though does not think that I should get on statins yet, since given my family's history, my natural cholesterol level is supposed to be higher than the rest of the population. So right now I mostly use diet to control it. A few things that can be used to lower your bad cholesterol: cinnamon (my dad swears by it, 1 tsp per day), almonds, red wine, niacin and fish oil. Also my doctor says that while excercise is good to keep your blood pressure within a normal range, it has little effect on your cholesterol level (unless you really work out hard!).
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Old 09-09-2007, 12:24 AM   #18
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Buckeye -- Yup. That was probably part of it. I was joking, partly, about wanting the magic remedy. Guess I need to do Weight Watchers big time.

Firedreamer -- I already am using all those food items, except the niacin and cinnamon. Thanks for the interesting info.
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Old 09-09-2007, 08:37 AM   #19
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Buckeye, my cholesterol numbers seem to correlate best with my level of exercise. I quit regular walking for a while and the numbers got worse; when I started walking again they improved.

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Old 09-09-2007, 10:38 AM   #20
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Coach - Do you know which component the exercise is affecting? HDL. LDL, or triglycerides? I guess it's theoretically possible to raise your cholesterol with exercise if it increases your HDL (good cholesterol) without decreasing the other two but you will actually be healthier (and your ratio will improve).
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