Cholesterol 101 and 102

If you are over the age of twenty, it’s a good idea to get a lipid profile (blood test) performed at your physician’s office. There is a lot of stuff floating throughout your circulatory system. You might as well discover what you have in there.

Fitness, Health, medicine, cholesterol, cardiovascular health, hdl, lol, cholesterol levels, circulatory system, heart health

Breaking Down the Numbers
The lipid profile will include numbers on the following:

  • Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL)
  • High-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL)
  • Triglycerides
  • Total cholesterol

Your LDL cholesterol is the “bad.” HDL is the “good.” Triglycerides are fat obtained from dietary intake. Total cholesterol is those two combined, plus other lipid components.

Why are the levels of these important? Being a reader of this website, you’re most likely a healthy and fit specimen. But you might have a family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, or some other issue. So, you need to watch your numbers on a regular basis. As they say, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

“If you have a family history of high LDL and exercise and diet are not helping, then cholesterol medications may be the answer.

The risk of heart disease increases if your levels of LDL cholesterol are high. LDL can build up on the walls of your arteries and blood vessels in the form of plaque and decrease potential blood flow. HDL – the good cholesterol – can help decrease this bad cholesterol buildup.

Triglycerides are another type of circulating fat that can lead to narrowing of the arteries and vessels. Over-consuming calories can lead to greater amounts of triglycerides. As with LDL cholesterol, high triglyceride levels increase the risk of having a coronary event.

Fitness, Health, medicine, cholesterol, cardiovascular health, hdl, lol, cholesterol levels, circulatory system, heart health

Low-density lipoproteins can form the arterial plaque that is generally associated with cholesterol.

What Does Healthy Look Like?

When it comes to LDL levels, the lower the better:

  • Less than 100 mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter) = optimal
  • 101-129 mg/dl = near optimal
  • 130-159 mg/dl = borderline high risk
  • 160-189 mg/dl = high risk
  • More than 190 mg/dl = very high risk

But when it comes to HDL levels, the higher the better. You have a greater risk of heart disease if you are:

  • A male and have less than 40 mg/dl of HDL
  • A female and have less than 50 mg/dl of HDL
  • Male or female, you have a lesser chance of heart disease with HDL levels more than 60mg/dl

“You might have a family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, or some other issue. So, you need to watch your numbers on a regular basis.”

Here’s where you should aim when it comes to triglycerides:

  • Less than 150 mg/dl = normal
  • 151 – 199 mg/dl = borderline high
  • 200 – 499mg/dl = high
  • More than 500 mg/dl = very high

Your total cholesterol is the sum of your HDL, LDL, and triglyceride levels. Determine your triglyceride sum factor by multiplying it by .2. That is, if your triglyceride level is 135, the sum factor would be 27 (135 x .2).

  • Less than 200 mg/dl = optimal
  • 201 – 239 mg/dl = borderline high-risk
  • More than 240 mg/dl = high risk

Fitness, Health, medicine, cholesterol, cardiovascular health, hdl, lol, cholesterol levels, circulatory system, heart health

Example – Female:

  • LDL = 116 – near optimal
  • HDL = 68 – good
  • Triglycerides = 36 (180 level x .2) – borderline high
  • Total cholesterol = 220 – borderline high-risk

Example – Male:

  • LDL = 158 – border-line high risk
  • HDL = 60 – good
  • Triglycerides = 19.6 (98 level x .2) – normal
  • Total cholesterol = 237.6 – borderline high-risk

How to Get Your Numbers in the Healthy Range

If you are already an avid trainee who eats well, but you have undesirable cholesterol levels, then you should seek out a reputable physician for help. If you have a family history of high LDL and exercise and diet are not helping, then cholesterol medications may be the answer.

Simple Exercises to Improve Your Posture

1. Planks

When it comes to how to have good posture, a strong core is key. The classic plank is a fantastic core exercise that lights up a multitude of muscles all at once. When done correctly the plank strengthens several abdominal muscles while also working the shoulders and back.

Even better, several variations on the plank exist, so it’s easy to switch things up for a greater challenge or to combat boredom.

Practice the plank by lying face down on the floor with palms alongside shoulders and feet and legs together. Raise yourself so your arms are straight and you’re balancing equally on your hands and toes.

Alternatively, raise yourself just to your forearms. Be sure to keep your spine straight, as proper form is essential to getting the most out of this move. Try holding the pose for 30 seconds. As your strength grows, extend the time to between one and three minutes.

2. Crunch with Twist

If you want to learn how to fix your posture, then you’ll love this move. It works your abs and obliques.

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands behind your head. As you exhale, lift your right shoulder off the floor, rotating toward the left. Inhale and lower your shoulder back to the floor. Repeat on the other side to complete one rep.

3. Dumbbell Side Bends

This is another exercise for the obliques. You’ll need at least one light weight for this one, but you can also use cans of soup if you don’t have weights.

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Relax your shoulders. Slowly bend to one side, then return to the starting position. You can do all reps on one side before doing the other or work both sides at once.

4. Back Extensions

When you’re learning how to improve posture, it’s necessary to strengthen your back with this exercise. Lie face down, extending arms straight above your head. Keeping your head in line with your spine, gently lift your shoulders as far off the floor as possible, then return to the starting position.

5. Pilates Swimming

Learning how to have good posture is essential for dance students, and they use Pilates in their training. This is a move that anyone can do to strengthen their back to help ensure proper sitting posture. It can also help you make sure that you’re standing up straight.

Begin lying face down on the floor with arms straight over your head. Lift the left arm and right leg, keeping the elbow and knee straight. Lower your limbs back to the starting position before repeating with the right arm and left leg.

6. Reverse Dumbbell Fly

People who have rounded shoulders as a result of years of poor posture need to strengthen their upper back. When it comes to how to have better posture, this move is a great solution.

Use two light weights, grasping one in each hand with your palms facing each other. Feet are shoulder width apart. Bend slightly forward at the waist and soften the knees. With your head up and eyes facing forward, raise your arms to your sides until they are parallel with the floor. Elbows are slightly bent. Slowly lower arms to start position. Try three sets of 10 reps each.

7. Seated Dumbbell Row

This exercise is directed toward strengthening the upper and middle back. Sit on a chair, holding a light weight in each hand. Palms should be facing each other. Bend forward slightly from the waist. Begin by squeezing your shoulder blades together.

At the same time, drive your elbows behind you. Pause before slowly lowering the weights to the start position. Three sets of 10 reps is a good start.

8. Shoulder Rolls

Proper sitting posture is important for everyone, particularly those who work at a desk all day. This simple stretch can work wonders for relieving tension and encouraging correct posture.

Shoulder rolls can be done while sitting or standing. Inhale and raise your shoulders toward your ears. Hold for a few seconds before exhaling and pulling your shoulder blades down and together. Repeat five to 10 times at least twice a day.

9. Seated Twist

This is one of the best posture exercises, and it’s easy to do anywhere. In fact, it’s practically designed to be performed during a long day at work.

From a seated position, exhale and use the right arm of your chair to twist to the right. Your abdomen and chest will be facing the right arm of your chair. Hold this position for a few breaths before returning to the starting position and repeating on the other side. This exercise can be performed throughout the day.

10. Kneeling Stretch

Tight muscles are sometimes the result of poor posture. Couple bad posture with a sedentary lifestyle, and you’ve got a recipe for back pain and worsening posture as you age. The kneeling stretch combats tightness in a number of important muscle groups. Do it regularly, and you’ll find it much easier to sit and stand with a straight spine.

To begin, lunge with one leg forward while the knee of the other leg rests on a padded mat. Place your hands on your lunging knee. Gently push the hips forward to feel a stretch in the iliopsoas muscle, an important connection between the hip and spine. The more flexible your iliopsoas muscle is, the freer you are to keep your spine straight.

Abdominal Fat Loss Tips

1. Eat Plenty of Soluble Fiber

Soluble fiber absorbs water and forms a gel that helps slow down food as it passes through your digestive system.

Studies show this type of fiber promotes weight loss by helping you feel full so you naturally eat less. It may also decrease the amount of calories your body absorbs from food (345).

What’s more, soluble fiber may help fight belly fat. An observational study of over 1100 adults found that for every 10-gram increase in soluble fiber intake, belly fat gain decreased by 3.7% over a 5-year period (6).

Make an effort to consume high-fiber foods every day. Excellent sources of soluble fiber include flaxseeds, shirataki noodles, Brussels sprouts, avocados, legumes and blackberries.

2. Avoid Foods That Contain Trans Fats

Trans fats are created by pumping hydrogen into unsaturated fats such as soybean oil.

They’re found in some margarines and spreads, and they’re also added to some packaged foods.

These fats have been linked to inflammation, heart disease, insulin resistance and abdominal fat gain in observational and animal studies (789).

A 6-year study found that monkeys who ate a high-trans-fat diet gained 33% more abdominal fat than monkeys that ate a diet high in monounsaturated fat (10).

To help reduce belly fat and protect your health, read ingredient labels carefully and stay away from products that contain trans fats. These are often listed as “partially hydrogenated” fats.

3. Don’t Drink Too Much Alcohol

Alcohol can have health benefits in small amounts, but it is seriously harmful if you drink too much.

Research suggests too much alcohol can also make you gain belly fat.

Observational studies link heavy alcohol consumption with significantly increased risk of central obesity — that is, excess fat storage around the waist (1112).

Cutting back on alcohol may help reduce your waist size. You don’t need to give it up altogether if you enjoy it, but limiting the amount you drink in a single day can help.

In a study of more than 2000 people, those who drank alcohol daily but averaged less than one drink per day had less belly fat than those who drank less frequently but consumed more alcohol on the days they did drink (12).

4. Eat a High-Protein Diet

Protein is an extremely important nutrient for weight control.

High protein intake increases release of the fullness hormone PYY, which decreases appetiteand promotes fullness. Protein also raises your metabolic rate and helps you retain muscle mass during weight loss (131415).

Many observational studies show that people who eat more protein tend to have less abdominal fat than those who eat a lower-protein diet (161718).

Be sure to include a good protein source at every meal, such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy, whey protein or nuts.

5. Reduce Your Stress Levels

Stress can make you gain belly fat by triggering the adrenal glands to produce cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone.”

Research shows high cortisol levels increase appetite and drive abdominal fat storage (1920).

What’s more, women who already have a large waist tend to produce more cortisol in response to stress. Increased cortisol further adds to fat gain around the middle (21).

To help reduce belly fat, engage in pleasurable activities that relieve stress. Practicing yoga or meditation can be effective methods.

6. Don’t Eat a Lot of Sugary Foods

Sugar contains fructose, which has been linked to several chronic diseases when consumed in excess.

These include heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and fatty liver disease (222324).

Observational studies show a relationship between high sugar intake and increased abdominal fat (2526).

It’s important to realize that more than just refined sugar can lead to belly fat gain. Even “healthier” sugars (such as real honey) should be used sparingly.

7. Do Aerobic Exercise (Cardio)

Aerobic exercise (cardio) is an effective way to improve health and burn calories.

Studies also show it is one of the most effective forms of exercise for reducing belly fat. However, results are mixed regarding whether moderate-intensity or high-intensity exercise is more beneficial (272829).

Regardless of intensity, how often and how much you exercise is important. One study found postmenopausal women lost more fat from all areas when they did aerobic exercise for 300 minutes per week versus 150 minutes per week (30).

8. Cut Back on Carbs, Especially Refined Carbs

Reducing carb intake can be very beneficial for losing fat, including abdominal fat.

Diets with under 50 grams of carbs per day cause belly fat loss in overweight people, those at risk of type 2 diabetes and women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) (313233).

You don’t have to follow a strict low-carb diet. Some research suggests that simply replacing refined carbs with unprocessed starchy carbs may improve metabolic health and reduce belly fat (3435).

In the famous Framingham Heart Study, people with the highest consumption of whole grainswere 17% less likely to have excess abdominal fat than those who consumed diets high in refined grains (36).

9. Replace Some of Your Cooking Fats With Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is one of the healthiest fats you can eat.

Studies show that the medium-chain fats in coconut oil may boost metabolism and decrease the amount of fat you store in response to high calorie intake (3738).

Controlled studies suggest it may also lead to abdominal fat loss.

In one study, obese men who took coconut oil daily for 12 weeks lost an average of 1.1 inch (2.86 cm) from their waists without intentionally changing their diets or exercise routines (3940).

To boost belly fat loss, it’s best to take about 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of coconut oil per day, which is the amount used in most of the studies reporting good results.

However, keep in mind that coconut oil is still high in calories. Instead of adding extra fat to your diet, replace some of the fats you are already eating with coconut oil.

10. Perform Resistance Training (Lift Weights)

Resistance training, also known as weight lifting or strength training, is important for preserving and gaining muscle mass.

Based on studies in people with prediabetes, type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease, resistance training may also be beneficial for belly fat loss (4142).

In fact, one study in overweight teenagers showed that a combination of strength training and aerobic exercise led to the greatest decrease in visceral fat (43).

If you decide to start weight lifting, it is a good idea to get advice from a certified personal trainer.

11. Avoid Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

Sugar-sweetened beverages are loaded with liquid fructose, which can make you gain belly fat.

Studies show that sugary drinks lead to increased fat in the liver. One 10-week study showed significant abdominal fat gain in people who consumed beverages high in fructose (444546).

Sugary beverages appear to be even worse than high-sugar foods. Because your brain doesn’t process liquid calories the same way it does solid ones, you’re likely to end up consuming too many calories later on and storing them as fat (4748).

To lose belly fat, it’s best to completely avoid sugar-sweetened beverages such as soda, punch and sweet tea, as well as alcoholic mixers containing sugar.

12. Get Plenty of Restful Sleep

Sleep is important for many aspects of health, including your weight. Studies show that people who don’t get enough sleep tend to gain more weight, which may include belly fat (4950).

A 16-year study of more than 68,000 women found those who slept less than 5 hours per night were significantly more likely to gain weight than those who slept 7 hours or more per night (51).

The condition known as sleep apnea, where breathing actually stops intermittently during the night, has also been linked to excess visceral fat (52).

In addition to sleeping at least 7 hours per night, make sure you’re getting sufficient quality sleep.

If you suspect you may have sleep apnea or another sleep disorder, speak to a doctor and get treated.

13. Track Your Food Intake and Exercise

Many things can help you lose weight and belly fat, but consuming fewer calories than your body needs for weight maintenance is key (53).

Keeping a food diary or using an online food tracker or app can help you monitor your calorie intake. This strategy has been shown to be beneficial for weight loss (5455).

In addition, food-tracking tools help you see your intake of protein, carbs, fiber and micronutrients. Many also allow you to record your exercise and physical activity.

You can find 5 free apps/website to track nutrient and calorie intake on this page.

14. Eat Fatty Fish Every Week

Fatty fish are incredibly healthy.

They are rich in quality protein and omega-3 fats that protect you from disease (5657).

Some evidence also suggests that these omega-3 fats may help reduce visceral fat.

Studies in adults and children with fatty liver disease show fish oil supplements can significantly reduce liver and abdominal fat (585960).

Aim to get 2-3 servings of fatty fish per week. Good choices include salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel and anchovies.

15. Stop Drinking Fruit Juice

Although fruit juice provides vitamins and minerals, it’s just as high in sugar as soda and other sweetened beverages.

Drinking large amounts may carry the same risk for abdominal fat gain (61).

An 8-ounce (248-gram) serving of unsweetened apple juice contains 24 grams of sugar, half of which is fructose (62).

To help reduce excess belly fat, replace fruit juice with water, unsweetened iced tea or sparkling water with a wedge of lemon or lime.

16. Add Apple Cider Vinegar to Your Diet

Drinking apple cider vinegar has impressive health benefits, including lowering blood sugar levels (63).

It contains a compound called acetic acid, which has been shown to reduce abdominal fat storage in several animal studies (646566).

In a controlled study of obese men, those who took 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar per day for 12 weeks lost half an inch (1.4 cm) from their waists (67).

Although no other human studies yet exist, taking 1 to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar per day is safe for most people and may lead to modest fat loss.

17. Eat Probiotic Foods or Take a Probiotic Supplement

Probiotics are bacteria found in some foods and supplements. They have all sorts of health benefits, including improved gut health and enhanced immune function (68).

Researchers have found different types of bacteria play a role in weight regulation, and having the right balance can help with weight loss, including loss of belly fat.

Those shown to reduce belly fat include members of the Lactobacillus family. These include Lactobacillus fermentumLactobacillus amylovorus and especially Lactobacillus gasseri (69707172).

Probiotic supplements typically contain several types of bacteria, so make sure you purchase one that provides one or more of these bacterial strains.

18. Try Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting has recently become very popular for weight loss.

It is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of eating and periods of fasting (73).

One popular method involves 24-hour fasts once or twice a week. Another involves fasting every day for 16 hours and eating all your food in an 8 hour period.

In a review of studies on intermittent fasting and alternate-day fasting, people experienced a 4–7% decrease in abdominal fat within a period of 6-24 weeks (74).

More details: How Intermittent Fasting Helps You Lose Weight and Belly Fat.

19. Drink Green Tea

Green tea is an exceptionally healthy beverage.

It contains caffeine and the antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), both of which appear to boost metabolism (7576).

EGCG is a catechin, which several studies suggest may be effective for losing belly fat. The effect may be strengthened when green tea consumption is combined with exercise (777879).

20. Change Your Lifestyle and Combine Different Methods

If you do just one of the items on this list, then it won’t have a big effect on its own.

If you want good results, then you need to combine different methods that have been shown to be effective.

Interestingly, many of these are the same things we generally associate with healthy eating and an overall healthy lifestyle.

Therefore, changing your lifestyle for the long-term is the key to losing your belly fat and keeping it off.

When you have healthy habits and eat real food, fat loss tends to follow as a natural side effect.

Strength Training for Runners

The goal here is to get you a stronger running body. You won’t look like Arnold, trust me. So, here we go: […]