Cholesterol particle size matters

As per 2013, more than 1 in 3 adults (81.1 million) live with 1 or more types of cardiovascular disease. According to a government agency, there were 126.0 coronary heart disease deaths per 100,000 population in 2007. In addition to being the first and third leading causes of death, heart disease and stroke result in serious illness and disability, decreased quality of life, and hundreds of billions of dollars in economic loss every year. The statistics are similar for both women and men. A form of cardiac disease may occur at any age, with higher percentages at age 40 than at age 70. It can be a silent killer. Making sure you have cholesterol panel blood tests may help you measure possible ways of reducing your risk. How reliable are the standard lipid panel blood tests? They may not be.

One of the problems associated with the development and study of heart disease and its risk potential in the United States is that there is no national system to collect data on how often cardiovascular events occur or recur, or how often they result in death. Based on smaller studies, many outside the United States, vascular, cardiovascular, and heart disease statistics are astounding. Is the risk of developing heart disease 33%? Are doctors proactive in employing better testing?

A while back, a gastrointestinal specialist told me I had GERD, acid reflux disease. I didn’t seem to be getting upset by the associated risk factors. On a second opinion with a chief physician, she asked me whether I knew the type of GERD. I didn’t know. Obviously there are many types. When it comes to cholesterol and possible heart disease risks, cholesterol has many different subtypes. Some of these go beyond mere lipoprotein levels. Many subtypes and particle sizes come into play when trying to determine risk factors. Many cardiologists proceed with treatments, based on traditional blood test panels, prior to using studies that analyze cholesterol at deeper levels. For some, cholesterol particle size matters and can make a vast difference in a prognosis.

With all the chatter about cholesterol levels, when you check cholesterol particle size, size matters. Some particles of this blood fat are large and buoyant and breeze easily through your circulatory system. But other particles are small and dense — and four times as likely to cause heart disease as they are more likely to gather on your artery walls. So even if you have a low total cholesterol value, you may be at greater risk than you or your doctor might think.

When you are at a risk for cardiovascular diseases, with high LDL, you shouldn’t rely on the results found from a traditional blood test. There are other blood tests that help you get closer to the heart of the problem. Don’t get stressed till you ask your doctor to address this further. The tests are:

One test focuses on cholesterol particle size as well as subclasses or subtypes of LDL (the bad type) and HDL (the good type) levels that aren’t seen in a traditional blood test. The Vertical Auto Profile (VAP) test will analyze your LDL cholesterol and determine if it is made up of predominantly the small, dangerous particles or larger, more benign particles. It will also tell you how much lipoprotein is circulating in your blood. In addition, the VAP test breaks out your HDL cholesterol subtypes, letting you know if you have more of the HDL2 subtype, which is most beneficial. Basically, when it comes to HDL protective qualities, there are black sheep among the different possible HDL. HDL Cholesterol (good guy) is comprised of
different subtypes. HDL2 is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease even in patients whose Total and LDL cholesterol are within the desirable limits established by
the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP).

A Lipoprotein Particle Profile (LPP) test also breaks down cholesterol into fractions smaller than LDL and HDL and analyzes the particles comprising each of them, just like the VAP test. It measures the lipoprotein particles directly giving a more precise evaluation of their size. High numbers of small, dense LDL particles can ultimately cause cardiovascular disease. The LPP test has an advantage over the VAP test, because its methodology allows for more precise measurements and because it can also measure remnant lipoprotein (RLP), which is a more threatening type of cholesterol that isn’t singled out by most other cholesterol tests. Elevated remnant cholesterol may cause more artery inflammation that can lead to a heart attack, using a non-fasting test. This leads to a more accurate view than the fasting traditional test. LPP measurements track particles as you live with them.

Another advanced test is the NMR Lipoprotein Test that uses nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to deliver a more precise profile of LDL levels in your bloodstream. Test results will outline risk factors. The test from Liposcience was recently approved by the FDA. It only tracks LDL cholesterol particles.

In calculating possible cardiovascular risks, guidelines may differ among those organization that set up risk criteria. Among the oldest is the Framingham Heart Study that was established by the National Heart Association in 1948. The American Heart Association has a heart risk assessment calculator based on the 2010 Framingham study.

A set of statistics indicate that about 50% of people who have suffered heart attacks have “normal” cholesterol numbers according to NHLBI The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institute of Health. In many cases the cholesterol particle size mattered upon further investigation. Using cholesterol particle size as part of routine measurement may reduce cholesterol level risk or increase it. According to the NHLBI calculator, my risk potential is 10% over the next 10 year period. The calculator factors age, gender, traditional total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, whether I smoke, and my systolic blood pressure reading. A 10% risk sounds pretty good, although I’d sit more comfortably with 5% or less as a probability.

Being statin treatment intolerant, that 10% number is kind of okay. I do take other cholesterol reducing drugs and supplements, follow a strict diet, and exercise regularly. Also having Myotonic dystrophy (a degenerative muscle disease) may mean more frequent cardiograms and cardiac muscle tests to keep my risk factor as low as possible.

According to a large 1999 life risk study of developing heart disease experiment in the United Kingdom, the findings were alarming. The 7733 patients were followed up for a total of 109,948 person-years. Overall, 1157 participants developed coronary heart disease. 1312 died from non-coronary heart disease causes. Lifetime risk of coronary heart disease at age 40 years was 48.6% (95% CI 45.8-51.3) for men and 31.7% (29.2-34.2) for women. At age 70 years, lifetime risk was 34.9% (31.2-38.7) for men and 24.2% (21.4-27.0) for women. After researchers excluded isolated angina pectoris as an initial event, the lifetime risk of coronary artery disease events at age 40 years was 42.4% for men and 24.9% for women.

Hypertension and high triglycerides factor greatly in the mortality rates of heart disease risks.

The lifetime risk of developing or dying From Cancer is 43% for males and 38% for females, all inclusive cancers according to the American Cancer Society. The National Safety Council releases a book on risk statistics in virtually every aspect of life.

Fortunately, we don’t live trying to assess our risks of dying inside or outside our home. Yet nearly everyone knows or has known someone living with the threat of heart disease or cancer. It’s very disconcerting. Cardiovascular risks, one or more, are like driving a car. You need to know more about the road ahead and around you. Use your mind and be proactive about risks. While there’s no guarantee against accidents, be diligent in aiming for safety.

Knowing your serum cholesterol levels, your cholesterol particle size and constituency of the subclasses help you assess and act toward reducing your risks of athesclerosis and heart disease. The media surrounds us with what steps to take. You should know them. Pursue your doctor for more thorough testing. Become proactive at being your personal wellness advocate. Live better, hearty, and prosper towards longer, healthier living.

Hypertension or High Blood Pressure

Beware! There may be a serial killer stalking and targeting you. It might be you. One of the new epidemics facing people living in the United States is very silent. You don’t feel it. If it’s there and it can contribute to your health problems. It can even kill you. It’s called hypertension or high blood pressure. Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing up against the blood vessel walls travelling throughout your body as it nourishes organs and cells. The higher the pressure the harder the heart has to pump. Do you have hypertension?

Normal blood pressure is defined as less than 120/80 mmHg; pre-hypertension is classified as between 120-139/80-89 mmHg. High blood pressure is classified as stage I (140-159/90-99 mmHg) or stage II (greater than 160/100 mmHg). These targets are often modified.

Each time you visit your doctor, make certain that you have your blood pressure checked and ask what it is. Better yet, keep a blood pressure monitor at home and check your reading each day, preferably at the same time everyday. It is an affordable, practical tool that each home should have and, for some, as important as a toothbrush.

One out of three adults in the developed and developing world may develop or have hypertension. The underlying cause usually cannot be determined and it is likely that many factors may contribute to the cause. Hypertension, though, may influence your heart, kidneys, liver, and brain. If untreated, it may help trigger life-threatening illnesses or death.

Hypertension patterns may be caused by genetics and it may be good to know if it runs in your family. The general causes may be associated with diet and/or lifestyle. Some people with high blood pressure may be sensitive to salt or sodium. Research on sodium intake have been generally inconclusive. Usually other factors, such as old age, become a factor. Patterned hypertension is defined as Essential Hypertension. Essential hypertension has often been connected with obesity, diabetes, stress, insufficient intake of potassium, calcium, and magnesium; lack of physical activity, and chronic alcohol consumption.

The reason why owning (and using) a blood pressure monitor is as important as owning a toothbrush is that one cause may be the narrowing of blood vessels. Those narrow canals may have plaque accumulations. Plaque on teeth may result in gum disease. Plaque in your arteries may result in heart attacks and strokes. When blood vessels narrow, it is believed that blood pressure heightens as a possible result. Some people might have plaque build-up without hypertension but both hypertension and heart disease may be easily monitored and prevented by doctors and (mostly) by you. Cardiovascular disease and hypertension may easily be controlled by cardiovascular exercise – as simple as walking briskly 15 to 30 minutes each day. Are these changes reasonable? You can also opt for other methods to treat hypertension.

If your readings are routinely pre-hypertension or at Stage I levels, you should seek out a physician for further tests or medication. There are many classes of medications used to treat hypertension. Each has some risk of side effects. Because these classes may be sourced at certain theoretical causes, it is important that you and your doctor are aware of possible inferences of causality.

If there is no general pattern of hypertension but your blood pressure has been increasing recently, it may be secondary hypertension. Causes are likely to be sourced to kidney, thyroid, and other possibilities. For this reason, your doctor should order blood tests before determining treatment.

Not always associated with hypertension, but an important factor, is rapid heart rate. The condition is known as Tachycardia. Normal resting heart rates are generally 50 to 90 or 60 to 100, depending on different theories. Heart rates over 100 and as high as 400 may cause dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath and lightheadedness. Possible cases may be heart-related conditions, high blood pressure, hearty muscle disease, thyroidism, lung disease, and chronic emotional stress. Consumption of alcoholic or caffeinated beverages may also contribute variances toward a rapid heart rate. If your heart rate range is somewhere between 50 and 110, you may not have clinical Tachycardia. But if you experience routine dizziness or lightheadedness, you may benefit by exploring further.

Because rapid heart rate may often be heart related, you should consider an appointment with a cardiologist, and many primary physicians may recommend one. Often, doctors can perform non-invasive tests to help determine heart rate steadiness. These are called Vagal Maneuvers. These are tests that affect the vagus nerve, which helps regulate your heartbeat. The maneuvers include coughing, bearing down as if you’re having a bowel movement, and putting an icepack on your face. The vagus nerve not only helps mediate heart rates but may also contribute to regulating stress that’s bridged with mood disorders, such as depression. For those patients who may have resting heart rates that are typically over 150, diagnostic tests may be performed to determine cardio-muscular conditions within the four heart chambers.

For those with rapid heart rates that are near the normal range, beta-blockers are often selected as medicinal treatment.

When hypertension may be associated with lifestyle, there are lifestyle steps that may help you get your blood pressure back to normal range. What I’ve found, through the years, is that lifestyle measures often have high extinction rates. Blood pressure readings may drop when following these changes but may rise to higher levels when lifestyle steps cease. This is why medications are generally helpful.

There are a number of different types of drugs used to treat high blood pressure. As mentioned earlier, these are different classes and work in different ways. Work with your doctor but familiarize yourself with the different options:

Diuretics: Help the kidneys to flush excess water and salt from the body.

Beta blockers: Help the heart beat more slowly and less forcefully, and also relax arterial walls, together resulting in less pressure within and on blood vessels.

ACE inhibitors: ACE stands for angiotensin-converting-enzyme.This class of drugs inhibits production of the hormone angiotension II, which normally causes blood vessels to narrow, thereby increasing the pressure inside.

Calcium channel blockers: Prevent calcium from entering the muscle cells of the heart and blood vessels, allowing both to relax.

Alpha blockers: Reduce nerve impulses that tighten blood vessels allowing blood to flow more freely.

Beta blockers: Reduce nerve impulses and slow heartbeat. Beta brain waves are associated with normal waking consciousness and a heightened state of alertness, logic and critical reasoning. While Beta brain waves are important for effective functioning throughout the day, they also can translate into stress, anxiety and restlessness. Often prescribed for treating hypertension, beta blockers may make you sleepy when you need to be alert.

Nervous system inhibitors: Increase nerve impulses from the brain to relax and widen blood vessels.

Vasodilators: Relax muscles in blood vessel walls.

Do you enjoy eating licorice? This popular candy may contribute in elevating blood pressure. Do you take over-the-counter meds? Decongestants contain pseudoephedrine, which adversely affects your cardiovascular system and increases your blood pressure. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen sodium can increase your blood pressure if you have hypertension. Women older than 35 and use oral contraception are at greater risk of developing high blood pressure.

There are many vitamins and supplements that might be effective in treating hypertension. Please realize these have not been tested by the US Federal Drug Administration for possible efficacy. Even though these may be natural, they are (like drugs) chemicals and may behave uniquely in your body. If you have hypertension and prefer to go the natural way, consult a medically associated nutritionist. Sometimes nature may not be the best path.

Beware of sodium (salt) content in canned and processed foods. Many add around 1 gram of sodium per serving. Most people don’t eat one serving. Fast foods often have more than 1 gram per serving. The reason is easy. Salt helps make foods tastier. If you haven’t got hypertension, enjoy eating to your heart’s content. If you do have hypertension, your heart may not be as content as your appetite. Using different spices and herbs may be better alternatives but then that means you better prepare meals at home. Fortunately many foods sold at supermarkets offer Reduced Sodium versions. While sodium intake is up to scientific debate as a cause of hypertension, are you willing to risk your life to a bunch of bickering scientists?

It was always believed that hypertension and heart attacks were more prevalent in adult men than women. That may no longer be true. As more women are in the workplace and confronting more stressors, hypertension and heart issues may be emerging among women. While not always positively correlated, hypertension is seen as a cofactor when a heart attack occurs. This silent killer targets men and women.

Gum disease may lead to tooth loss if not monitored. Hypertension may be like going alone into a dark alley at midnight. Having hypertension means you are dealing with a silent killer, a phantom of your body. Hypertension is easily detected and monitored. Hypertension is also easily treated in many different ways, from lifestyles to meds. The point of wisdom is – once you’re aware of it, control and treat it.

Nobody says that some other condition or event may kill you. You can play an active role to assure that hypertension won’t stop you from experiencing the fullness of life. On that level, you can be the empowered controller.