Thursday, September 17, 2015

Five Facts About Cholesterol

Approximately 73.5 million adults in the U.S. have high cholesterol, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). High cholesterol levels have been medically linked to heart disease, peripheral artery disease, atherosclerosis and other heart-related issues, causing patients with high cholesterol to be at a higher risk for strokes and heart attacks. Understand more about cholesterol, its effects on the human body and more in these five facts about cholesterol.

Cholesterol Defined
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like material that is both created naturally by the body and taken in through food sources. It is a general word that pertains to two different types of cholesterol,  low-density lipoproteins (LDL), also known as “bad” cholesterol, and high-density lipoproteins (HDL), also known as “good” cholesterol. The term “high cholesterol” refers to heightened levels of LDL.

Cholesterol in the Body
The liver creates all of the cholesterol the human body needs. Cholesterol is circulated through the blood, aiding in production of hormones and vitamins and eventually, it gets broken down into bile salts to help the body absorb nutrients from ingested foods. Cholesterol is found naturally in foods from animal sources, including poultry, meat and high-fat dairy products.

Good vs. Bad Cholesterol
The “good” HDL cholesterol absorbs excess “bad” LDL cholesterol and carries it to the liver to be cleansed from the body. HDL protects against blood clots, helps keep the blood vessels healthy and can lower a person’s risk for heart disease and stroke. LDL comprises the majority of the body’s cholesterol levels, contributing to plaque buildup in the arties, damaging the insides of blood vessels and ultimately creating a higher risk of heart-related health complications. Though the body needs some LDL for normal body functions, heightened LDL levels are harmful and potentially fatal.

Genetics, Lifestyle and Cholesterol
While studies have shown that cholesterol levels may have some genetic component, lifestyle also plays a large role in the HDL and LDL levels in your body. Certain cholesterol-specific genetic conditions, including familial hypercholesterolemia – a predisposition to extremely heightened or difficult-to-control high LDL levels – put certain individuals at greater risk than others for cholesterol-centric heart conditions. More often, though, high LDL levels result from an LDL-rich diet, low levels of physical exercise, smoking and other unhealthy habits. Lifestyle changes typically aid in lowering LDL levels and raising HDL levels, keeping people healthy for years to come.

Lowering LDL Cholesterol Levels
While LDL may seem scary, it is possible to reverse current LDL levels and increase HDL levels through lifestyle changes, diet changes and more:

  • Make changes to your daily diet. Avoid saturated fats and oils, trans fats, partially hydrogenated oils, fatty meats, dairy products with 1% or more milk fat and fast foods. Instead, eat oats, salmon, nuts, tea, beans and other nutrient-dense, high-fiber foods to help reduce the LDL in your body. Drink plenty of water to help detoxify as well.
  • Exercise regularly. Losing excess weight helps to reduce the payload of your heart and blood vessels. This can either reduce your risk of or prevent diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, gout, cancer, heart attacks and stroke.
  • Stop smoking. The chemicals is smoking products make it tough for your body to get rid of the bad cholesterol in your bloodstream. Smoking cessation leads to a heightened ability to detoxify LDL from your body and improve HDL levels.
  • Consult a physician about cholesterol monitoring and possible prescription medications. Your primary care physician will be able to decide if a cholesterol-lowering medication is right for your health plan. Treatments for high cholesterol include statins, a medication that helps lower your risk of heart attack or stroke by preventing the liver from producing cholesterol internally. Talk to your primary care physician to see if this is right for you.

Having your cholesterol checked regularly is important because there are no symptoms of high cholesterol.  Contact your primary care physician to schedule testing. If you do not have a primary care physician, visit or call 443-849-GBMC.

Meet Kevin Murphy

Every one of us has a story we can share. Think of a past event in your life related to GBMC. Whether it’s care you received, an opportunity you have, or a loved one you remember, this event should have very personal meaning to you. What’s happened in your life since your experience at GBMC? Read Kevin Murphy's story below, and share yours at

Kevin Murphy's Story: "I've Revamped My Life Thanks to GBMC"

My journey to bariatric surgery began early in life in grade school being teased as “pudgy.” When I entered high school, I still considered myself overweight but upon graduating I enlisted in the military in 1971. Basic training was a bit challenging physically, but I got through. When I finished my active duty service, I joined the Maryland Air National Guard. I served in different positions over the years, thoroughly enjoyed myself and took pride in serving my country. 

I was on the weight control program often throughout my career. I had been diagnosed with Type II Diabetes and was no longer able to be deployed worldwide. The writing was on the wall. I retired in December of 2004 and did not complete the 42 years I had promised myself I would do for my country. Since I was out of the military, there was no reason to work on my weight – at least that’s what I thought. My diabetes got worse and my blood pressure and cholesterol were all quite high. My primary care physician said I was “a walking heart attack” and was “lucky nothing had happened yet.” I was aware of the different gastric surgeries but was afraid to commit, due to the fact that I lost a friend to it in the early 1990s when this surgery was in its infancy. But, after being told that I was not at all healthy, I contacted the GBMC Bariatric department and started the process. 

I did not care for the doctor I was assigned at all. He was two hours late for the first appointment. Thankfully he left, and along came Dr. Elizabeth Dovec. After chatting with her, I was 100 percent confident that I was in good hands. She thought I would not go through with it, but I had every intention to – I was just waiting for my military TriCare health insurance to kick in. We discussed the three possible procedures and together agreed on the gastric bypass surgery…the full Monte. 

Dr. Dovec greeted me prior to entering the OR which really meant a lot to me. She also took the time to reassure my family, especially my son, who was holding back tears, that all would be well. My surgery went very well and I was released the next day. No pain for me whatsoever. I followed the plan prescribed and have never looked back. I have lost nearly 90 pounds, have more energy than I can ever remember and am really enjoying the gym with my very special gym partner (you know who you are).

Currently, for the most part, my diabetes is under control and my last blood pressure reading was 110/64. I am currently still shopping at Goodwill, the best place to find clothing while I am still losing. I have dropped ten inches from my waist and three inches from my neck. I’ve gotten rid of almost all of my medications, which included two types of insulin that I was injecting five times a day. I go to the gym regularly and look forward to long walks. 

My surgery was May 1, 2014. I am still not used to my new body because I wake every morning and wonder where it all went. I have completely revamped my diet along with some very bad eating habits. I ran the first 5K of my life six weeks after surgery. I have regular visits with the bariatric department, and those people will stay with me for life. 

Dr. Dovec is constantly fine-tuning the bariatric surgery process to make it a very efficient, well-oiled engine for all of her patients. I feel myself very fortunate to have her as my surgeon for life. She reflects great credit upon herself and the GBMC System, which is blessed to have her on staff.

Had it not been for Dr. Dovec, her able staff and the entire GBMC facility, I may not be here today. GBMC will always be my hospital of choice. I’m looking forward to being around for quite some time – after all, my dad is 92 and going strong. Thank you, GBMC.

Peanut Butter Hummus


For dip: 
2 cups low-sodium garbanzo beans, rinsed
¼ cup low-sodium chicken broth
¼ cup lemon juice
2-3 tablespoons garlic, diced
¼ cup creamy peanut butter or other nut or seed butter
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper or paprika
1 tablespoon olive oil

For pita chips: 
4 (6½-inch) whole-wheat pitas, each cut into 10 triangles
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic, minced or ½ tsp garlic powder
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 400F. To prepare the hummus, combine all ingredients for the dip and mix them in a food processor or blender. Puree until smooth. To prepare the chips, toss the pita triangles with the olive oil, garlic and pepper. Bake the chips on a baking sheet for 10 minutes or until crispy. Arrange pita chips on a platter, and serve with the hummus.


Serving: 1/8 cup hummus and 5 pita chips
Calories: 235
Total fat: 9 g
Sodium: 225 mg
Fiber: 5 g
Protein: 9 g
Carbohydrates: 32 g

Recipe Source: Reprinted with permission from Keep the Beat™ Recipes: Deliciously Healthy Family Meals. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. NIH Publication No. 10-7531. Page 66. December 2010.