Cholesterol

Hi friends, how are you all? I am sure all good and if something needs work , you are already on it.

Tell me how would you feel if something that you believed to be true, for your entire life, turned out to be not-so-true, after all? It feels unbelievable, right? There are many such facts for me. Everyday brings new researches and new information to the fore!

Nutrition especially feels like an onion, you peel one layer and then you get another. So many contradictions and still, all so true! It is confusing for most of us and a lot of times, the general advice we get/hear are too generalized, to be of much use to one person, with a specific goal or health-concern.

Same with human physiology. Whenever I start exploring this particular subject, I get overwhelmed. What a miracle a human body is! Precise, self-sufficient and extremely smart…greatest gift to us and one we need to value as such!

Anyways, today’s topic is from nutrition and human physiology both. It is about cholesterol. And if we thought, we knew all about cholesterol, I can tell you straight away that we don’t. Why do I say that? Read on!

What Is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a soft, odorless, waxy, fat-like substance which circulates in our blood and is found in all our cells. It is a fatty substance (lipid) but not fats.

Cholesterol is not bad in itself. In fact, it is critical for our body to have cholesterol to:

  • build cells
  • make vitamins
  • make hormones

The only problem with cholesterol is – when there is too much of it!

Cholesterol can be further classified in two main categories such as,

  • LDL– Low Density Lipoprotein – the bad kind ( ideally less than 100 mg/dl)
  • HDL – High Density Lipoprotein – the good kind (60 mg/dl and above is optimal)

Elevated Cholesterol Concerns

As the cholesterol levels increase in the blood, the health risks increase too. Elevated cholesterol levels in blood can increase the risks for cardiovascular diseases including heart attack, stroke and atherosclerosis (build-up of fatty deposits in arteries). Atherosclerosis, in itself can lead to various other problems such as erectile dysfunction etc

High cholesterol can affect anyone at any age. The narrowing of arteries can start happening in childhood and though the consequences are felt much later in life, it is a fact.

So, Where Does Cholesterol Come From?

Primarily from our own liver. Yes, the liver makes all the cholesterol that we need. The rest – the dietary cholesterol, comes from food but from animal sources only e.g. dairy, eggs, meat etc

These foods are often high in saturated and trans-fat also. So is junk-food. This kind of fat pushes our liver to make more of cholesterol and this additional cholesterol is what elevates our blood-cholesterol levels.

What Causes Cholesterol?

Our body produces all the cholesterol that we need and it’s OUR unhealthy choices that are to be blamed for elevated cholesterol levels. The main causes are:

  • Unhealthy, unbalanced diet
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Smoking
  • Being obese or overweight
  • Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) – a genetic condition

Symptoms of Elevated Cholesterol

Unfortunately, high cholesterol levels don’t have much symptoms and the effects start showing much later. And that is why an annual blood-work is a great idea.

For many people, a first heart attack is generally the first indication of elevated cholesterol levels and narrowed arteries.

In The End

It is definitely possible to lower the elevated cholesterol levels. Making necessary lifestyle and dietary changes is a great first step. It generally works beautifully. A few dietary supplements can help too, along with a well-balanced diet and a regular physical activity.

If that doesn’t work, consulting a physician, having a heart scan done and starting prescribed medication (statins) might reduce the health risks.

Just remember, small steps and small changes on a consistent basis, add up to great benefits in long term. Till we get on lifelong medication and fall in serious-risk category, it is always a good time to start. It is worth making these changes. Afterwards, it just becomes a necessity to stay alive. There is absolutely no need for us to come to that level, if we are ready to work for that goal.

Hope today’s post helped in understanding cholesterol better and to know that it is a critical part of our well-being till we overdo it.

https://www.instagram.com/healthcoach_smita/

Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace

Part 2: How To Improve HRV

Hi friends, happy Friday!

How was the week that went by? All good at my end, thank you. Humans are quite resilient, aren’t they? They quickly adapt – physically and mentally.

Most of us can work all day under mild/moderate pressure and then we unwind at the end of the day. We relax, sleep and wake up the next day to start the whole process all over, again! Not all days are same but we quickly fall into a rhythm and do well. And make the most of it too!

Some people who work under high pressure and find themselves unable to detach easily when it’s time to relax, usually end up with chronic stress and anxiety issues. Sleep issues crop up and coupled with unhealthy lifestyle habits, the body becomes susceptible to frequent infections, chronic illnesses and exhaustion.

Among these, few lucky ones realize the gravity of the situation on time and are able to make necessary lifestyle changes, taking help of experts if needed and make a U-turn towards good health. The rest have to suffer the consequences of poor lifestyle habits as well as unhealthy choices and that is what keeps the medical industry in good business.

Now, the big question is

  • How do we know/measure if we are healthy – physically, mentally and emotionally?
  • If we are trying to make a progress, how would we know it’s working?
  • How do we know whether we are being mindful or not?
  • How do we know that we are chronically stressed and that we need to slow down?
  • How do we know that we are resilient and can adapt to our environment?
  • How do we know that we have a balance established in our body and that our nervous system is strong?

There are many ways to know. The body itself tells us so much only if we care to listen. Then there are many lab-tests that could be done. There are these home-devices and wearables that enable us to keep a track of what is important for us. The bio-marker called HRV could help immensely, too.

In my last post on HRV part1, we got to know of this great and easily trackable biomarker/biofeedback that tells us about the required balance in our body and if we could achieve that balance, we can make huge progress in terms of our overall health.

How Can HRV Come Handy?

HRV is a simple and non-invasive way of identifying any imbalances in our body. It can tell us how resilient we are. It is a good indicator of our lifestyle habits.

If you are always in flight-or-fight mode or are constantly stressed, the variation (HRV) would be low. If we are relaxed and balanced, the HRV would be high.

A low HRV is an indicator of high stress, anxiety, depression, cardiovascular disease and an increased risk of death. A high HRV indicates good cardiovascular fitness, good stress-handling capabilities of our body, a younger biological age and good general overall health.

How To Change HRV

HRV can change and since HRV regulates our BP, breathing, digestion and heart rate etc., all these things change with a change in HRV. Positively impacting all these physiological factors without medication in indeed good news!

HRV data can also tell us how strong our nervous system is and how our current mental health is. It can also tell us a lot about our emotional health. We can improve upon our HRV by:

  • being more mindful and practicing active relaxation
  • a few breathing techniques
  • eating better (a well-balanced, healthy diet)
  • sleeping better and on time
  • exercising more

How To Check HRV?

The most accurate way to analyze HRV is through a electrocardiogram (EKG) at the doctor’s place but today, some wearables and apps can read HRV with a fair amount of accuracy. A forehead or chest-strap heart monitor would be great for someone who wants to track HRV with more accuracy. I have downloaded a free version of an app which gives me a fair idea about my HRV. I am thinking of buying the paid, full-version now, for more features.

The ‘resonant frequency’ breathing that I have gotten certified in recently, happened because I was interested in HRV and this particular breathing technique so far, has made a positive impact for me and my clients so you can try it too.

Should We Bother about HRV?

Low HRV scores indicate heart-health issues and other concerns such as diabetes and hypothyroidism. Heart patients generally tend to have low HRV scores and doctors tend to keep an eye on it.

Exercise and sports have a positive impact on HRV. Cardiac patients should definitely check with their cardiologist to add breathing techniques to improve upon HRV.

Also, if you are:

  • trying to make healthy lifestyle changes including in diet and/or trying to be more mindful, it would be a good idea to measure your HRV
  • trying to overcome stress, it would be a good idea to measure HRV. It can not only show you your progress but can keep you motivated as well
  • trying to schedule your physical-training and recovery rhythm

Do understand that it is a tool for us to get an idea of what’s going on in our brain and nervous system and how it is all impacting us, in other ways. We need to learn to adapt better to the physiological, mental and emotional environment around us and HRV can help.

In the end, do know that there is no good or bad HRV scores. It depends on our personal circumstances and our current status. We need to compare our progress individually. But it sure would be reassuring and motivating to know that the breathwork or the mindfulness I am practicing, is having a great impact on me and my overall health (and my clients’).

Do follow me on Instagram for regular motivation, health, nutrition and fitness trivia and updates on the link below:

https://www.instagram.com/healthcoach_smita/

Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace

SRT: Test Your Longevity

Hi friends, happy Friday!

How are you all?

Am so happy to be back this Friday! A big hug to all those who wished me good luck for my exam last Saturday and even offered help! I cleared the ‘foundation level’ exam and have moved on the next, more advanced level of my “Specialization in Health & Nutrition”.

I am doing this specialization because I am really, really convinced about the importance of fitness and nutrition, in all the areas of our life…including mental health and genetics. It makes me happy when you appreciate it too and take necessary steps yourself, towards a better quality of life, age/gender no bar!

The test that I am sharing with you today was designed in 1990s by Brazilian physician Claudio Gil Araújo, MD and is supposed to be a quick indicator of mortality risk among middle-aged and older individuals.

In a study between 2000 subjects of age 51-80, the low-scorers (0-3 points) were found 5-6 times more likely to die within the next 6 years than those with the high scores (8-10). The results which included constant follow-ups with the participants, suggested that the sitting-rising test score is a significant predictor of all-cause mortality

Process

For a demo video (i.e. me taking the same test), please go to my Instagram page on the link below:

https://www.instagram.com/jillofmanytrades_blogger/

  1. Wear comfortable clothes and take the test in your bare feet, with some space around
  2. Part 1: Cross your legs at ankles, sit down on floor. Try not to use your hands, forearms or knees (or any body part), for any assistance
  3. Part 2: Stand back again from the seated position. Again, no hands, forearms or knees (or any body part) for any assistance
  4. Don’t worry about the speed, take your time
  5. Calculate your score:
  6. Remember, there are 5 points for sitting down part and another 5 for standing up part
  7. If you had to use your hands, forearm or knee – cut a point for every support you needed, in each part of the process
  8. If you lost balance, cut another point
  9. If you partially lost balance or swayed, cut 0.5 points for every unsteady movement
  10. Calculate your score

If you managed the whole process without any sort of assistance from any body-part, you are a 10 and good to go. Congratulations!

If you scored somewhere mid-way, there is still time to start on a physical routine accompanied by a healthy, well-balanced diet.

If you score low, get up immediately, get your complete blood work/BMI done, see your doctor and buy that membership for gym/yoga class/pilates class (or whatever interests you as long as you are regular with it), meet a good nutritionist…and start like there is no tomorrow. Because I am sure you have plans for beyond the next 6 years!!

How Does The Test Work

The logic is simple. A person’s physical fitness and longevity depends on:

  • her/his muscular strength
  • muscular composition
  • flexibility
  • balance

This test gauges all four and is a very quick, simple exercise. With a lack in any of the above vital factors, the risk for injuries or losing balance become higher, the quality of life and movements suffer due to poor muscular structure.

In Dr. Araújo’s words –

“It is well-known that aerobic fitness is strongly related to survival, but our study also shows that maintaining high levels of body flexibility, muscle strength, power-to-body weight ratio and co-ordination are not only good for performing daily activities but have a favourable influence on life expectancy”.

To be honest, quality of life is as important as the longevity of it. However, they go hand-in-hand! With one comes the other. Today’s test is a good indicator for both.

So, now that we are done reading the post today, go check my Instagram post, take the test and determine your longevity score. Do share with people who you think should take this test too…and do try it with all your family members.

Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace

She is 84!