In following a heart healthy lifestyle, there are 5 numbers to key in on:
Diastolic Blood Pressure
Systolic Blood Pressure
LDL Blood Level
HDL Blood Level
Triglycerides Blood Level
People say that dietary intake of fish, particularly Salmon, help keep these numbers in check. Many don’t really know what these numbers mean. It’s actually a little complex and ironically simple. Many don’t really know what these numbers mean. People line up to eat salmon because it’s heart healthy. Is it?
When it comes to rising value, Salmon prices are skyrocketing around the world. Farmed salmon sold at Costco for about $5.00 per pound in 2012. In 2014, the price is hovering at $12 per pound. Wild salmon is now between $17 and $25.00 per pound. Touted a heart healthy foods, salmon and tuna has moved from the common into the rare and people are lining up to buy it. Is salmon as heart healthy as many people think?
Someone asked my opinion of blood test results. His LDL (bad cholesterol) was a little over 200. His doctor wanted to prescribe Lipitor, a common statin drug, to help reduce the LDL. LDL comprises about 70% of the natural cholesterol that circulates in the bloodstream. It is comprised mostly of fat which then tends to get deposited in the arteries creating plaques. This plaque build-up is believed to lead to to atherosclerosis, which is a hardening and narrowing of the arteries and a large risk factor for heart disease. My friend pointed out that his diet consists of salmon, tuna, and trout on salad. He thought he at heart healthy. I advised him that heart healthy fish may not be healthy at all levels. Each adds dietary cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends consuming 300 milligrams per day of dietary cholesterol or, if you have a 100-mg/dl ( milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL)) in blood serum, to 200 milligrams per day.
Salmon is heart healthy but only on certain levels. When compared to meat, a 4-ounce portion of salmon offers body-healthy omega 3 fatty acids, a huge helping of protein and a complement of crucial B vitamins. That does sound great!
The American Heart Association recommends limiting dietary cholesterol intake. Cholesterol is found in any animal source such as meat, fish, and shellfish. It is particularly high in organ meats, such as liver and tongue. Next time you spread pate on a cracker, consider how much cholesterol you’re consuming.
Your body produces cholesterol naturally. Your body needs some cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help you digest foods. Your body makes all the cholesterol it needs. Cholesterol is a lipid and each cell of your body has a phospholipid bi-layer that offers it protection and balance. It acts as the skin of each cell. Your liver is the primary organ responsible for the production of cholesterol in your body, although very small amounts are made by the lining of the small intestine and the body’s individual cells. The livers cholesterol production is released into your bloodstream to feed all the parts of your body that need it.
Vegetables have no cholesterol so do not add dietary cholesterol. As meat and fish eaters, these foods add dietary cholesterol. A 4-ounce portion of salmon has about 68 milligrams of cholesterol. A similar size of tuna delivers about 50 milligrams of cholesterol. Surprisingly, a 4-ounce lean cut of bottom round sirloin delivers 43 milligrams of cholesterol. When it comes to adding dietary cholesterol, salmon is a big contributor. When it comes to maintaining healthy cholesterol levels naturally, salmon may not be the heart healthier choice. A 4-ounce portion of salmon has 50% more cholesterol than meat. Salmon is considered healthier.
The cholesterol portion of your blood test rates these lipids: LDL, HDL and Triglycerides. LDL is the bad cholesterol that may result in artery-clogging plaques. The American Heart Association considers LDL ay 190mg/dl extremely high. HDL is the good cholesterol. They help prevent LDL from sticking to your arteries. With HDL cholesterol, higher levels are better. Low HDL cholesterol (less than 40 mg/dL for men, less than 50 mg/dL for women) puts you at higher risk for heart disease. In the average man, HDL cholesterol levels range from 40 to 50 mg/dL. In the average woman, they range from 50 to 60 mg/dL. An HDL cholesterol of 60 mg/dL or higher gives some protection against heart disease. The mean level of HDL cholesterol for American adults age 20 and older is 54.3 mg/dL.
High levels of omega-3 fatty acids, or what researchers refer to as fish oils, make salmon a shoe-in when it comes to improving levels of HDL, or “good” cholesterol. The contributing factor may be less than a 5% gain. It may not be enough. Therapy to raise the concentration of HDL cholesterol includes weight loss, smoking cessation, aerobic exercise, and pharmacologic management with niacin and fibrates. I found 1000mg Niacin per day increased HDL by 50% but check routinely. Taking more than 1,000mg per day could be harmful to your liver. The main thing about Omega 3 is that this natural oil complex is essential for heart health in managing your diet.
High Triglycerides are another heart-unhealthy factor that few consider. Your body is capable of producing the right amount of triglycerides it needs. A triglyceride level of 150 mg/dL or higher is one of the risk factors of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome increases the risk for heart disease and other disorders, including diabetes. The term triglyceride means sugars and certain fats. The mean level of triglycerides for American adults age 20 and older is 144.2 mg/dl. That is why dietary triglycerides in reducing carbohydrates and certain fats are so important. When an average level is 144.2mg/dl, it means many are over 150mg/dl.
Triglycerides may be related to lifestyle and your diet. Many people have high triglyceride levels due to being overweight/obese, physical inactivity, and a diet very high in carbohydrates (60 percent or more of calories).
Triglycerides are associated with a fatty acid called Omega 6 and, although it is a vital nutrient, it helps promote body inflammation. Dietary sources in meat are primarily in the lower, pricey cuts in the loin. Less desirable top cuts have lower levels of Omega 6
so, as triglycerides go, top sirloin is healthier than bottom sirloin. Omega 6 is a saturated fat that can inflame and clog arteries when ingested beyond recommended dietary levels. The recommended level is about 5 parts Omega 3 to 1 part Omega 6. The reality of most food consumers is closer to 1 part Omega 3 to 15 parts of Omega 6.
Salmon, Tuna, Trout, Mackerel, Cod, Tilapia, and Sardines have little Omega 6 fats and much more Omega 6 fats. Many people have high triglyceride levels due to being overweight/obese, physical inactivity, cigarette smoking, excess alcohol consumption and/or a diet very high in carbohydrates (60 percent or more of calories). High triglycerides are a lifestyle-related risk factor; however, underlying diseases or genetic disorders can be the cause. Omega 3 contributes to reducing body inflammation and, though a saturated fat, also offers polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats considered healthier. Studies of Omega 3 and Omega 6 ratios cite evidence of better health. Since salmon, mackerel, and sardines are higher in Omega 3 fats, they are very heart healthy on a triglyceride level.
Of course, you can get the benefits of Omega 3 (and Omega 6) from a non-cholesterol vegan-friendly source. It’s flaxseed oil.
If you are having difficulty maintain a cholesterol level of 100mg/dl per day, you would have to limit your salmon dietary intake to just above 8 ounces of salmon per day to help keep your LDL down. The person who showed me his high result was eating over 1 pound each day.
If you are using canned salmon, don’t be fooled by the cholesterol number. Check servings per can. A 6-ounce can may read 28mg cholesterol but if that can yields 3 servings, and you have an entire can, that’s 84mg of cholesterol. 1 can of sardines may have 90mg of cholesterol. Take care of your dietary intake!
Apart from the separate LDL and HDL readings, the LDL and HDL ratio is an important risk factor. Find your Total Cholesterol number by dividing your triglyceride count by five or multiply by 20 percent (0.20). A triglyceride level of 100 mg/dl divided by five would be 20. Add that to your total HDL and LDL. These numbers should be in mg/dl units. To find your cholesterol ratio, you divide your total cholesterol number by your HDL, or good, cholesterol number. For example, if your total cholesterol number is 200 and your good cholesterol is 50, your total cholesterol ratio is 4:1. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), you should keep your cholesterol ratio at or below 5:1. The ideal cholesterol ratio is about 3.5:1. If your ratio is ideal or a little better, you are not likely to need drugs to control cholesterol levels.
There are many popular heart healthy diets to help you maintain good cholesterol levels and heart health. Many include portions of fish. While fish is a great source of necessary protein, don’t rely on it alone. Fish, by itself in large quantities, is not heart healthy. If you want extra protein, seek out servings of nuts or soy beans. These are vegetarian sources and contain no cholesterol.
There are some people, by virtue of genetics and family lineage, who have high LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, and high triglyceride levels. Sometimes eating heart healthy diets aren’t enough. For those, drug intervention might help but you’re fighting your DNA mix. The therapy may be worse than the initial problem. Seek out more thorough testing and monitor your heart health at least twice per year.
Fish is a source of cholesterol and shellfish may have huge levels of cholesterol. Each ounce of lobster can have 27 milligrams of cholesterol. If cholesterol monitoring is part of your heart health plan, know the cholesterol nutritive levels of your dietary intake. Juggling heart health often requires a mix of bad and good. Strive for better. Balance requires thought and responsibility.
For the most part, keeping those 5 numbers in check is a challenging quest, especially if you are not tolerant to statin drugs. Knowledge, insight, and fervor are necessary for a lifestyle diet. Choosing salmon over meat may have heart healthy benefits. Salmon cholesterol may not be totally heart healthy but it’s a heart healthier choice among animal sources.