a Fitness, Health and Wellness Blog


Push the Plate Away…For a Little While

Periodic Fasting
Scheduled fasting provides an opportunity for body to cleanse the entire digestive system by itself in the natural process. The term fasting refers to restricted consumption of meals enforced by an individual to fulfill a specific requirement. 

For several years, fasting is acknowledged as the most successful natural technique to cure abdominal disorders. The root causes of stomach diseases are due to intake of foods which do not digest properly by the digestive organs and get stored within stomach contributing growth of harmful bacteria, impurities and poisonous matter.

Refusal of a meal during a day help metabolism to lighten from overburdened consumption. Fasting, thereby endows body with an opportunity to recover its metabolism by expelling out impurities and clogged waste.

Fasting also assists in rejuvenation of damaged blood tissues and enhances blood circulation. As per the medical experts, consuming controlled diets are one of the best ways to provide rest to the digestive organs, kidney and liver.

An individual should perform fasting at least once a week for an effectual detoxification of body. Fasting triggers the life saver mode of immune system which further results in consumption of stored fat cells by the body to maintain energy levels. Controlled fasting is also widely used by the people suffering from obesity as a weight loss technique.

Fasting requires firm determination and self control to keep oneself away from delectable dishes. This procedure triggered by fasting helps to boost one’s confidence level by providing the personality intellectual strength and firm determination. The prescribed duration for safe fasting varies from 12-24 hrs depending on one’s own determination.

However, fasting for more than one week should be implemented under supervision of medical practitioners as over fasting might pose a threat to health condition. Post fasting, it is advisable to maintain an adequate diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables together with a healthy lifestyle to enhance energy, liveliness and to gain most out of it.

Persons with diabetes, hypertension or anemia should not practice fasting without proper consultation with doctor. Juice fasting is recognized by US health department as a more effective method as compared to the conventional water fasting owing to the fact that fresh fruit juices are rich in sugars, minerals, enzymes and vitamins that help to normalize the body functions.


Eat Healthy on a Budget

Healthy eating on a budget doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, once you develop a habit of shopping for and cooking fresh foods creativity you might never go back to packaged, processed or fast food again. For the athlete on a budget the following tips may help you make better, cheaper meals that taste fabulous and trim your waistline along with your food budget.


1. Drink More Water and Less of Everything Else

picturegarden / Getty ImagesLet go of sodas, juices, soy lattes, alcohol and fancy energy drinks in favor of tap water and you will make an enormous dent in your grocery budget and probably improve your health in the process. Depending on where we live, most of us don’t need to pay for healthy hydration. 

2. Buy More Frozen Vegetables
Frozen vegetables are just as nutritious as many fresh vegetables because they are frozen shortly after picked. In some cases and particularly during the winter months, frozen may be even fresher than what you’ll find at your local grocery store. The best frozen vegetable choices include broccoli, peas, carrots, spinach, and mixed vegetables ready to add to your next stir fry.

3. Cook Enough to Have Leftovers
One-pot dishes like stir-fry, soups and stews made at home with fresh or frozen vegetable, lean meats, tofu, olive oil and fresh spices are satisfying and inexpensive meals that go a long way. Package up leftovers for the next day’s lunch or freeze leftovers for later in the week.

4. Invest in Reusable Food Storage Containers
If there is one area to invest in that can help you save money and eat healthy it may be by purchasing quality, reusable food storage containers. Different size and shapes that are microwave-safe, and easy to pack and carry with increase the likelihood that you will bring food with you. Packing leftovers the night before or making several lunches at a time will ultimately help you control your portion size and eat fresh for less.
Compare prices on Food Storage Containers

5. Support Your Local Farmer’s Market
Not only will you support your local economy, but you will find high quality, fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables that are often organic. Local farmers can often provide a better price because they have less overhead and transportation costs. Talk with the growers and learn about their produce and favorite ways to prepare it and you may find some new favorite recipes and healthy meals.

6. Give Up Breakfast Cereals
Breakfast cereals are not only expensive, but most offer little nutritional bang for the buck. And although the label may say it has 12 servings, do you know anyone who manages to eat just “one serving” of cereal at a time? You’re far better off with homemade oatmeal or a simple hard-boiled egg with fruit and whole grain toast.

7. Limit Processed, Packaged and Single Serving Foods
It may be a bit more work initially to make your own sandwiches, soups or salads, but the effort will save you big bucks. The price you pay for one or two packaged sandwiches at the deli could buy the fixings for a week’s worth of homemade lunches. Additionally, you control what you put in it — and have a sandwich you love as a result.

8. Cut Out the Energy Bars and Drinks
RossLand / Getty ImagesEnergy bars and beverages may be convenient and nutrient-dense, but they are expensive and can easily be replaced by less costly “real food.” Consider as replacements: an apple, a banana, a handful of dried fruit & nuts, about 3 fig newtons, or a cheese and tomato or tuna sandwich. Wash it down with tap water and you’ve replenished your energy stores and saved yourself some cash.

9. Eat Out Less Often
Eating out is not only expensive, but frequently unhealthy. Restaurant food is often full of fat and calories hidden in sauces, oils and butter. And while fast food lunches may appear to be fast, convenient and cheap, the lack of nutritional value is the real price you’ll pay.

10. Share Entrees
If you like to eat out, or have a lifestyle that includes going to restaurants, you don’t have to give it up to save money. But think about what you order and how much you consume at one meal? Most restaurant portions are massive and far more than we need to consume. But face it, we tend to eat what’s in front of us and when dining out that means usually we overeat. Why not consider sharing an entree? Chinese, Thai and Italian cuisine is perfect for sharing. Another way to eat out and save money is by taking advantage of happy hour menus when the same meal is about half-price.

The Alkaline Diet

Most people have never heard of the Alkaline Diet, probably because it is the exact opposite of the high protein-low carb diets that have been so popular over the last few years. But many doctors are now recommending the Alkaline Diet to their patients because of how necessary the proper alkaline-acid balance is to healthy living and well being.   Alkaline_food

What is Alkaline and Why is it Important?
The Alkaline diet (also known as the alkaline ash diet, alkaline acid diet and the acid alkaline diet) is a dietary protocol based on the consumption of foods which burn to leave an alkaline residue. Minerals containing elements like calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, are the principal components of the ash, as they are incombustible. This burning is compared to the way in which foods are catabolised to produce wastes. Foods are thus classified[citation needed] as alkaline, acid or neutral according to the pH of the solution created with their ash in water.
In general, the diet involves eating certain fresh citrus fruits, vegetables, tubers, nuts, and legumes and avoiding grains, dairy, meat . Such a diet helps to maintain the balance of the slight alkalinity (7.35-7.45) of blood without stressing the body’s regulators of acid-base homeostasis. Metabolic acidosis may indicate the presence of disease such as diabetic ketoacidosis or may have other causes, like exercise-induced lactic acidosis; likewise metabolic alkalosis may be caused by chronic conditions such as hypokalemia-induced alkalosis, or temporary, such as hyperventilation.

Alkaline occurs naturally in our bodies, and its main function is to neutralize excess acids and remove them from the body. It is important to maintain sufficient alkaline levels, because when our alkaline levels are low, our bodies deplete essential nutrients from organs and other body parts in order to neutralize the excess acid. This can result in a number of diseases, deficiencies, and disorders.

What Happens When Our Bodies Are Not Supplying Enough Alkaline and acid Alkaline diet?
When our bodies can no longer find alternative means to neutralize acid, a condition known as acidosis occurs. Dangerous levels of acid infiltrate our tissues and remain stuck there, where it can no longer be neutralized. As a result, our levels of acidity are greatly increased. Acidosis is thought to be responsible for nearly all fatal diseases, as it is essentially the one thing that all diseases have in common with each other. This is why many doctors believe that an Alkaline Diet is essential to good health. If we are able to maintain proper amounts of alkaline by carefully selecting the foods we eat, we will maintain a healthy alkaline pH balance, thus avoiding acidosis.

What do pH Levels Have to Do With an Alkaline Diet?
Both alkaline and acid naturally occur in the body. pH, which signifies our alkaline to acid ratios, is a measurement scale that is used to determine the amounts of alkaline and acidity in our body fluids. The pH scale ranges from 0-14. 7 is considered “neutral,” while anything lower than 7 is considered to be acidic. A pH level of 7.1 or higher is alkaline. Obviously, it is much healthier to have higher amounts of alkaline in one’s system than to have higher amounts of acid.

Doctors who support an Alkaline Diet believe that our bodies’ pH levels, which are normally between 7.36 and 7.34, must remain perfectly balanced in order to stay healthy and avoid many damaging and fatal diseases. If our pH levels are more acidic than they are alkaline, acidosis is likely to occur.

How Does the Alkaline Diet Work to Stabilize pH Levels?
Alkaline occurs naturally in many foods, just as it does in our own bodies. The object of the Alkaline Diet is to supply our bodies with sufficient amounts of alkaline through the foods we eat, in order to maintain healthy, predominantly alkaline pH levels. The theory is that the more alkaline we can provide our bodies with, the more efficiently our bodies will neutralize acid and remove it from the body, thus maintaining good health and longevity, and our ability to ward off diseases.

The pH level of our internal fluids affects every living cell in our bodies and the effect that over-acidification can have upon the health of our bodies is immense, with a chronically over acidic pH creating an extremely negative environment which affects all cellular functions from the beatings of the heart to the neural workings of the brain.

When our pH level is unbalanced, almost any area of our bodies can be negatively affected creating results such as cancer, heart disease, obesity, weight problems, allergies, fatigue and premature aging as well as problems with our nervous system, cardiovascular system and muscles.

Where Do I  Start?
To begin to alkalise it is important to start consuming alkalising foods and drinks while eliminating acidifying foods and drinks from your diet. As a rough guide you should try to include some of the following:

Foods that Alkalize: Vegetables: Spinach, asparagus, broccoli, carrots, celery, cucumber, lettuce, courgette, cabbage, greens, swede, squash (summer, butternut, yellow etc), peppers, chili, tomato, onion, garlic, chickpeas, pinto beans, kidney beans, spring onion, root ginger
Salads: Lettuce, spinach, celery, cucumber, nuts (aside from peanuts and cashews), seeds, avocado, carrots etc.
Herbs & Spices: Basil, parsley, mint, coriander, ginger, cumin etc.
Essential Fats: Flax/Linseed, Evening Primrose, Olive Oil, Avocado Oil or an oil blend such as Udo’ Choice
Fruits: ONLY – Lemons, Lime, Grapefruit, Watermelon, Tomato, Avocado – all other fruits to be used quite sparingly
Grasses: Wheat, barley, kamut, lemon, shave etc.
Sprouts: Alfalfa, mung bean, broccoli, radish, wheat, lentil, fenugreek etc.
Dips and Sauces: Pesto, hummus, tahini, guacamole etc.

Foods that Acidify:
Dairy Products
Meat (aside from occasional coldwater fish)
Wheat (aside from sprouts or wheatgrass)
Fruit (apart from those mentioned above)
Bad fats (saturated, transfatty acids, hydrogenated)
Junk/ Processed foods
Fizzy drinks
Peanuts and Cashews
Pasta and White Rice

The most effective way to reverse the trend of over-acidification is to ‘cleanse’ the body of toxins and rapidly create an alkaline environment in which the body can heal itself. Cleansing is a natural, holistic method of healing in which the body detoxifies itself and regenerates healthy vibrant cells, effectively becoming more alkalized.

How Do I Know if My pH Levels Are Alkaline?
Once you’ve started an Alkaline Diet, determining whether or not your pH levels are predominantly alkaline is simple. You can purchase pH level test strips, and test your urine and saliva in the privacy of your own home. The best time to test is one hour before a meal or two hours after a meal. Twice a week is a sufficient number of times to test your pH levels.

What Should the pH Test Strip Say?
If you are following the Alkaline Diet correctly, your urinary pH levels should read between 6.0 and 6.5 in the morning, and between 6.5 and 7.0 in the evening. If testing your saliva, the pH strip should read between 6.5 and 7.5 all day long. Basically, your urine pH strip results gauge how well your body is excreting acids; while saliva pH strip results determine how much acid your body is producing.

Natural Diuretic Foods

Foods that help release body fluid are known as natural diuretics. A diuretic diet is advised for those suffering from edema, heart diseases, high blood pressure and kidney or liver related disorders.

Water retention in the body is as harmful as dehydration, if not more. Retention of water in the body usually occurs in people suffering from heart ailments, kidney and liver related ailments, PMS symptoms, high blood pressure, sciatica etc. It may also occur due to the lack of B-vitamins, amino-acids and proteins in the diet or due to the excessive consumption of foods high in sugar and salt content. The condition caused due to water retention in the body tissues is known as Edema.

Diuretics are substances that help flush out the excessive water from the body through urination. Diuretics are available in the form of synthetic diuretics and natural diuretics. Synthetic diuretics are medications or drugs that are available over-the-counter with the prescription of a medical expert. Many precautions have to be taken while consuming synthetic diuretics as they are accompanied by a lot of side-effects. A Natural diuretic, on the other hand, is a safer option as it can be obtained from natural foods and herbs and is free from any kind of side effects.  asparagus-main_Full

The following are some natural foods and herbs that exhibit diuretic qualities and promote the process of diuresis.

  • Asparagus: It contains a chemical alkaloid called asparigine that promotes effective removal of wastes from the body by improving the functioning of the kidney.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: It maintains optimum levels of potassium in the body in addition to exhibiting natural diuretic properties.
  • Tomatoes: It’s a very rich source of Vitamin C that helps release excessive body fluids and improves metabolism.
  • Garlic: It contains mustard oils that have cleansing properties. They break down and flush out fats.
  • Cranberry Juice: It helps maintain the pH level of the urine, dilutes the urine and aids in increasing the frequency of urination. Its also helpful in improving and maintaining kidney functioning.
  • Brussels Sprouts: It helps in the cleansing of the body tissues and cells by stimulating the kidneys and pancreas.
  • Oats: It contains Silica which is a natural diuretic substance.
  • Dandelion leaf: It is high in potassium and mineral contents that aid the process of diuresis. It also helps in potassium retention.
  • Green tea: It is being used in China, as a natural diuretic, since centuries.
  • Fennel: It exhibits diuretic and carminative properties.
  • Juniper Berries: It contains volatile oils and terpinen-4-ol which enhances the kidney’s glomerular filtration which helps flush out excessive fluids from the body.
  • Parsley: It stimulates urination by flushing out toxins from the kidneys.
  • Celery: Both the seed and the plant contain high levels of potassium and sodium that together stimulate urine production.
  • Lettuce: It helps flush out toxins and increases metabolism rate.
  • Melon: It contains high levels of water, potassium and sodium that help eliminate toxins and stimulates urine production.
  • Other natural diuretic foods and herbs include beets, cabbage, carrots, artichokes, watercress, Gingko Biloba, Buchu Extract, coffee, tea, etc.

A natural diuretic diet can also be followed as a diet for weight loss or a detoxification diet. They also help reduce PMS symptoms like bloating and headaches. For these purposes, carbohydrates, foods high in sugar and salt content, junk foods, soft drinks, etc. need to be completely eliminated from one’s diet and the above mentioned foods and herbs should be incorporated. Drinking plenty of water is also very essential along with the consumption of natural diuretics.

Although natural diuretic foods can help detoxify and provide relief from edema, they should be consumed only for a few days, as some natural diuretics can also flush out the essential minerals and nutrients. It is advisable to consume them under the advise of a medical expert.

FAQs: Eating to Fuel Exercise

No matter what kind of exercise you do – whether it’s a run, gym workout or bike ride – you need food and water to fuel the effort and help you recover. But what’s the best time to eat before and after exercise? Should we sip water or gulp it during a workout? Here are some frequently asked questions.


 Q: How important is the timing and type of food and fluid when it comes to exercise?
A: Take the approach of thinking of food as part of your equipment. People are not going to run well with one running shoe or ride with a flat tire on their bike. Your food is just like your running shoes or your skis. It really is the inner equipment. If you think of it this way, you usually have a better outcome when you’re physically active.

Q: What’s the most common mistake new exercisers make when it comes to food?
A: There are two common mistakes. Often somebody is not having anything before exercise, and then the problem is you’re not putting fuel into your body. You’ll be more tired and weaker, and you’re not going to be as fast.

Q: At what point before exercise should we be eating?
A: An hour before exercise. just a fist-sized amount of food. That gives the body enough food to be available as an energy source but not so much that you’ll have an upset stomach. So if you’re going to exercise at 3 p.m., you need to start thinking about it at 2 p.m.

Q: What about water? How much should we be drinking?
A: About an hour before the workout you should have about 20 ounces of liquid. It takes about 60 minutes for that much liquid to leave the stomach and make its way into the muscle. If you have liquid ahead of time, you’ll be better hydrated when you start to be physically active.

Q: Does the timing of your food after you’re finished exercising make any difference?
A: Post exercise – Rule of Thumb: Eat something within 15 minutes. The reason for that is that the enzymes that help the body re-synthesize muscle glycogen are really most active in that first 15 minutes. The longer we wait to eat something, the longer it takes to recover.

If people are really embarking on an exercise program and want to prevent that delayed-onset muscle soreness, refueling is part of it. Again, it’s a small amount – a fist-sized quantity. Low-fat chocolate milk works very well. The goal is not a post-exercise meal. It’s really a post-exercise appetizer to help the body recover as quickly as it can. You can do trail mix, or make a peanut butter sandwich. Eat half before and half after.

Q: Why is it that peanut butter sandwiches come up so often as good fuel for exercise?
A: It’s about having carbohydrate with some protein. It’s inexpensive and nonperishable. That’s a big deal for people, depending on the time of day and year. They’re exercising and they don’t want something that will spoil. Peanut butter is an easy thing to keep around.

Q: What do we need to know about replenishing fluids as we exercise?
A: Everybody has a different sweat rate, so there isn’t one amount of liquid that someone is going to need while they exercise. Most people consume about 8 ounces per hour – that’s insufficient across the board. Your needs can range from 14 ounces to 40 ounces per hour depending on your sweat rate. Those people who are copious sweaters need to make an effort to get more fluid in while they exercise. If you aren’t taking fluid in you have a risk of heat injury and joint injury, and strength, speed and stamina diminish. This is an important part of any training. Put fluid back into the body during exercise.

Q: Should we keep sipping fluids while we’re exercising?
A: How we drink can make a difference in how optimally we hydrate our body. A lot of people sip liquids, but gulping is better. Gulps of fluid leave the stomach more rapidly. It’s important to do this. It seems counterintuitive, it seems like gulping would cause a cramp. People are more likely to have stomach cramps sipping because fluid stays in their gut too long.
When you take more fluid in, gulps as opposed to sips, you have a greater volume of fluid in the stomach. That stimulates the activity of the stretch receptors in the stomach, which then increase intra-gastric pressure and promote faster emptying. This is why gulping is preferred.

Q: Do you have any recommendations about the frequency of meals for people who exercise regularly?
A: If you have breakfast, lunch and dinner and a pre- and post-exercise snack, that’s at least five times a day of eating. When people are physically active, anything under three meals a day is not going to be enough.

Kale, It’s a Vegetable

When you mention kale, the majority responds with raised eyebrows and mumble “Huh”? “What’s that”? Kale is an old, hardly noticed and powerful green food. Kale is a leafy green vegetable with a mild earthy flavor. The ideal season for kale is between mid winter and early spring where it can be found in abundance in most produce sections of local grocery stores. However, kale usually is available year round. Righteously so, kale is starting to garner well deserved attention amongst dieticians and other health care professionals. This is due to its natural and nutrient rich phytochemical content which brandish unparalleled health promoting benefits. Kale is a nutritional powerhouse.

Kale is overflowing with essential nutrients such as calcium, lutein, iron, and Vitamins A, C, and K. Kale has seven times the beta-carotene of broccoli and ten times more lutein. Kale is rich in chlorophyll and provides much needed fiber so lacking in the daily diet of processed food eating Americans.


The key Kale benefit is the naturally occurring photochemicals sulforaphanes and indoles which research suggests may protect against cancer. Let’s not forget the essential antioxidant Vitamin E. Rest assured kale spares nothing in providing one with the required nutrients coupled with associated health benefits. This is not a shy leafy green by any means and certainly will assist one in achieving an alkaline body balance.

The naturally rich sulfur content of kale deserves a bit more discussion. Researchers have discovered that sulforaphane; helps boost the body’s detoxification enzymes, potentially by altering gene expression. This is turn is purported to help clear carcinogenic substances in a relatively timely manner. Sulforaphane is formed when cruciferous vegetables such as kale are chopped or chewed. This triggers the liver to produce natural enzymes which function to detoxify cancer causing chemicals, to which we all are exposed on a daily basis. A relatively new study published in the Journal of Nutrition (2004) demonstrates that sulforaphane helps stop breast cancer cell proliferation. Kale should be considered a regular part of the diet, especially for the ladies.

Kale descends from the wild cabbage which originated in Asia. Kale is thought to have been introduced to Europe by the Celtics where it remained a staple. Kale was an important food item early in European history and a crop staple in ancient Rome. Kale was eventually introduced to the USA during the 17th century by early English settlers. Unfortunately, we typically see kale used as decoration or garnishes for side dishes and salad bars. Once here twice forgotten, give kale the special attention it deserves. Your body is guaranteed to thank-you.

A leafy green vegetable starting to gain widespread attention, kale belongs to the Brassica family, a group that also includes cabbage, collard greens, and Brussels sprouts. Choose kale with small leaves as they will be tender and offer a slightly sweeter taste. Make kale leaves a regular addition to your salads. A sautéed side dish of kale, onions, and garlic drizzled in olive oil is second to none. If you are an avid juicer, you already appreciate the natural liquid vitamin content in plenty of green foods. By all means juice up the kale. One of nature’s best liquid vitamin drinks has never tasted so good.

Steamed Kale Recipe. Try it!!

Ingredients Needed:
    1 bunch washe’d kale–about 1/2 pound
    2-3 tablespoons sesame seeds to toast
    2 tablespoons tamari
    1 clove garlic to press
    2 tablespoons olive oil

Toast sesame seeds in a frying pan with no oil, watch carefully so they don’t burn.  Get your steamer going full force while you roll several kale leaves up at a time and slice them into about 1/4 inch widths.  Drop them into the steamer, cover and time them exactly three minutes on high heat (this is on a gas burner; electric may not require this high of heat setting). Remove after three minutes and toss with the olive oil, tamari, pressed garlic and toasted sesame seeds.  Serve at once.

Serves: 3-4.

Cholesterol Basics

Have you been diagnosed with high cholesterol? Is lowering your cholesterol a goal? The first step is to find out: what is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance made in the liver and found in certain foods, such as food from animals, like dairy products (whole milk), eggs and meat. The body needs some cholesterol in order to function properly. Its cell walls, or membranes, need cholesterol in order to produce hormones, vitamin D and the bile acids that help to digest fat. But, the body needs only a small amount of cholesterol to meet its needs. When too much is present health problems such as coronary heart disease may develop.


What Is Coronary Heart Disease?
When too much cholesterol is present, plaque (a thick, hard deposit) may form in the body’s arteries narrowing the space for blood to flow to the heart. Over time, this buildup causes atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) which can lead to heart disease. When not enough oxygen-carrying blood reaches the heart chest pain — called angina — can result. If the blood supply to a portion of the heart is completely cut off by total blockage of a coronary artery, the result is a heart attack. This is usually due to a sudden closure from a blood clot forming on top of a previous narrowing.

Types of Cholesterol
Cholesterol travels through the blood attached to a protein — this cholesterol-protein package is called a lipoprotein. Lipoproteins are classified as high density, low density, or very low density, depending on how much protein there is in relation to fat.

Low density lipoproteins (LDL)LDL, also called “bad” cholesterol, can cause buildup of plaque on the walls of arteries. The more LDL there is in the blood, the greater the risk of heart disease.
    – Very Low Density Lipoproteins (VLDL): VLDL is similar to LDL cholesterol in that it contains mostly fat and not much protein.
   –  Triglycerides:  Triglycerides are another type of fat that is carried in the blood by very low density lipoproteins. Excess calories, alcohol or sugar in the body are converted into triglycerides and stored in fat cells throughout the body.

High density lipoproteins (HDL)HDL, also called “good” cholesterol, helps the body get rid of bad cholesterol in the blood. The higher the level of HDL cholesterol, the better. If your levels of HDL are low, your risk of heart disease increases. 

How Much Cholesterol Is Too Much?
Everyone over the age of 20 should get their cholesterol levels measured at least once every 5 years. When being tested, your doctor may recommend a non-fasting cholesterol test or a fasting cholesterol test. A non-fasting cholesterol test will show your total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol. A fasting cholesterol test, called a lipid profile or a lipoprotein analysis, will measure your LDL, HDL, and total cholesterol. It will also measure triglycerides. Your doctor may start with a non-fasting cholesterol test and then recommend a lipid profile, based on your results.

General Cholesterol Levels : 
Total Cholesterol  Category 
Less than 200 Desirable
200 – 239 Borderline High
240 and above High

*Your LDL, HDL and triglyceride levels are important as well.

Understanding the Test: A Cholesterol Blood Test is used for measuring the amount of cholesterol and triglycerides in the serum – a part of the blood. This can be done with a simple home cholesterol test or at a medical center. The cholesterol test results are used, not so much as to diagnose or to monitor a disease, but to evaluate the individual risk for heart disease. 

What Factors Affect Cholesterol Levels?
A variety of factors can affect your cholesterol levels. They include:

1. Diet. Saturated fat and cholesterol in the food you eat increase cholesterol levels. Try to reduce the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet.
2. Weight. In addition to being a risk factor for heart disease, being overweight can also increase your cholesterol. Losing weight can help lower your LDL and total cholesterol levels, as well as increase HDL cholesterol.

3. Exercise. Regular exercise can lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol. You should try to be physically active for 30 minutes on most days.

4. Age and Gender. As we get older, cholesterol levels rise. Before menopause, women tend to have lower total cholesterol levels than men of the same age. After menopause, however, women’s LDL levels tend to rise.

5. Diabetes.  Poorly controlled diabetes increases cholesterol levels.  With impovements in control, cholesterol levels can fall.

6. Heredity. Your genes partly determine how much cholesterol your body makes. High blood cholesterol can run in families.

7. Other causes. Certain medications and medical conditions can cause high cholesterol.

Lowering Cholesterol and Reducing Risk of Heart Disease?
A few simple changes can help lower your cholesterol:

Eat low cholesterol foods. The American Heart Association recommends that you limit your average daily cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams. If you have heart disease, limit your daily intake to less than 200 milligrams. People can significantly lower their dietary cholesterol intake by keeping their dietary intake of saturated fats low and by avoiding foods that are high in saturated fat and that contain substantial amounts of dietary cholesterol.

Quit smoking.  Smoking lowers HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels. This trend can be reversed if you quit smoking.

Exercise. Exercise increases HDL cholesterol in some people. Even moderate-intensity activities, if done daily, can help control weight, diabetes, and high blood pressure — all risk factors for heart disease.

Take medication as prescribed by your doctor. Sometimes making changes to your diet and increasing exercise is not enough to bring your cholesterol down. You may also need to take a cholesterol lowering drug.

How Is High Cholesterol Treated?
The main goal in lowering cholesterol is to lower your LDL and raise your HDL. There are two key ways to lower cholesterol: eat a heart-healthy diet and take cholesterol-lowering medications.Doctors determine your “goals” for lowering LDL based on the number of risk factors you have for heart disease.

– If you have 0-1 risk factor for heart disease, you are at low-to-moderate risk. Lifestyle changes are recommended to keep the cholesterol in check.

– If you have 2 or more risk factors, you are at moderate risk or next-highest risk, depending on what heart disease risk factors you have. Sometimes your doctor will try lifestyle changes, but most of
   these people require cholesterol-lowering drugs.

– If you have known heart disease, diabetes or multiple risk factors, you are at high, or very high, risk. These people require a combination of cholesterol-lowering drugs and lifestyle changes to control their cholesterol levels

What Drugs Are Used to Treat High Cholesterol?
Cholesterol-lowering drugs include:  Statins, Niacin, Bile-acid resins, Fibric acid derivatives. Cholesterol-lowering medicine is most effective when combined with a low-cholesterol diet.

What Simple Foods May Reduce Cholesterol?
The exercise portion is fairly easy; actively walking will help lower cholesterol levels naturally. However, many people will ask,  What foods can I eat which will bring down my cholesterol levels? We often recognize a specific disease as part of the family history i.e. Uncle Joe died of a heart attack, or Aunt Edie died of stroke. Diet seems to be generally consistent among the family generations.  So that family recipes passed down or general manner of cooking may be a contributing factor

High Soluble Fiber. This may very well be the greatest of all the miracle foods. Fiber will lower the LDL (low density lipoprotein or ‘bad’ cholesterol) while promoting the HDL (high density lipoprotein or ‘good’ cholesterol). The use of oat bran, oatmeal and oat flour will greatly decrease the risk of heart disease. The well balanced daily dosage is around five to ten grams of fiber; this will lower your cholesterol by roughly 5 percent. Other soluble fiber foods include apples, barley and kidney beans.

Fish.  Another great food for lowering your cholesterol is fish. Fish provides you with protein and the omega 3 fatty acids. This fatty acid has been proven to lower LDL cholesterol levels. Just eating about 2 or 3 servings every week will help reduce your cholesterol. The best fish for accomplishing lower cholesterol levels would be herring, mackerel and trout.

Nuts. This is another wonder food for lowering your cholesterol level. Most people enjoy nuts. However, most are unaware of the role that they play in lowering the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and raising the helpful HDL cholesterol. It is recommended that you consume at least 1.5 ounces every day. You do not want to eat too much because nuts are high in calories. You can eat more nuts if they are consumed as a replacement for meat in your diet.

Plant Sterols. These products will bring down LDL cholesterol levels by at least 10 to 15% if you eat it 2 times a day. The most common foods to find them are in orange juice and salad dressing. If you are unsure which products contain them, look at the nutrition label on the packaging. This will usually tell you whether or not the product contains this heart friendly product.

Soy. This is perhaps the most controversial. This is due to the paucity of research backing up the claims of soy producers. The healthiest way to consume soy products is through tofu and rice.