Understanding Cholesterol Markers

Getting blood tests is routine for many of us. Most of us do it at least twice a year during physical exams.  To empower you to understand what the results mean and what the values reflect in terms of what’s going on inside your body, it is crucial to look beyond the standard explanations.
Here are a couple of things you have to remember when looking at the numbers:

  1. Lab markers don’t exist in isolation. Each lab marker is related to one another, so we are going to look at them in context of their relationship with other markers.
  2. The “standard” numbers don’t guarantee that you are healthy. They can even mean that you have a growing problem that needs to be taken care of. Aim for the “optimal” result (explained below).

In this newsletter, I will tackle the cholesterol markers, what they are measuring and what is optimal. So let’s dig in!

Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (LDL-C)

LDL-C is most commonly known as the “bad cholesterol” and is implicated as the cause of plaque that leads to atherosclerosis. However, LDL is not the ultimate indicator of our cardiovascular health (in fact, it’s not even a type of cholesterol! It’s like a taxi cab shuttling cholesterol around your body). In fact, about half of the people rushed to the emergency room due to heart attack have “normal” cholesterol levels. What is not normal, however, is having higher levels of small cholesterol particles caused by insulin resistance of metabolic syndrome.
Thus, if you want to know your cardiovascular health status, you better go look for triglycerides: they are a much better marker than LDL. The serum triglyceride, when unloaded of its fat at the adipose tissue site, becomes these small dense LDL particles. The triglyceride-to-HDL ratio or the ratio of bad to good cholesterol is the true indicator of cardiovascular disease because it shows the number of small dense LDL. It is also a marker for insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome.
Don’t focus too much on the LDL values alone, but rather on what type of LDL it is that makes up the total number. For your reference, the standard for LDL values is <100mg/dl but the optimal is <70mg/dl.


When calories go unused, triglycerides are stored in fat cells. In the blood, they are carried by VLDL or very-low-density lipoproteins which become LDL minus the triglycerides.
When you have a high level of triglycerides in the blood, it may indicate that you have metabolic syndrome and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) as well as a high risk for acute pancreatitis.
Increased triglycerides also reflects the quality of your diet because it is associated with high intake of refined and processed foods.
The standard result for triglycerides is below 150 mg/dl, but optimal is below 100 mg/dl or even lower.

High-Density Lipoprotein-Cholesterol

As opposed to LDL-C, HDL-C is widely known as “good cholesterol” because it carries some cholesterol back to the liver to be broken down and eliminated from the body as waste (like LDL, it isn’t named properly as it is NOT cholesterol but rather a shuttle for cholesterol back to the liver).
Since HDL removes lipids from cells and blood vessels, a high HDL value is considered to be protective against heart disease.
An HDL value above 60 mg/dl is ideal.

Total Cholesterol

This is a measure of the total cholesterol, including both the HDL and LDL. The normal total cholesterol should be less than 200 mg/dl, but the result should be taken in context to its ratio to the HDL rather than the total number. This is why just looking at the total cholesterol can be deceiving! 

Total Cholesterol-to-HDL Ratio

The higher the ratio, the higher the risk of heart disease. A ratio of 5:1 is recommended, but below 3.5:1 is considered very good and even less than 2:1 is the optimal.

Triglyceride-to-HDL Ratio

This is the most powerful test to predict your risk for a heart attack. If this number is high, you increase your risk by 16 times! This is because triglycerides go up and HDL drops with insulin resistance. So this is definitely the best marker of insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and heart attack risk. The bottom line is, this is the one marker you should focus on. Naturally, lower is better. If you have higher than 2:1, you are at high risk. Aim for 1:1-2:1, but less than 1:1 is the best.
I hope that this newsletter has empowered you to take a deeper look at your next blood test’s results. Diet and lifestyle greatly influence triglycerides, insulin, and metabolic syndrome and is, in my opinion, a far more valuable use of your time and energy to improve rather than your total cholesterol level.

It is my passion to work with people like you whose health symptoms are getting in the way of you living life fully and with a sense of freedom in your body. I can help you to regain your health so you can feel great and free to enjoy life fully.

If you’re ready to discover where your best health has been hiding, I’d love to connect with you!
Apply for a complimentary Unstoppable Health Discovery Session. (subject to availability).

Until next time, I’m wishing you unstoppable health!

Simple Tips to Keep Your Gut Happy This Holiday Season

Well, the holiday season is already in full swing even though for many of us it feels very different with the pandemic also in full swing.
Though this holiday may look and feel very different than in years past, there’s bound to be celebrations of some kind going on. This usually involves a feast or two and the hustle and bustle of holiday traditions.  That’s why I want to talk to you about how to keep your gut healthy throughout the holidays; because a healthy gut is a happy gut!
Your gut is home to countless microbes that are continually doing hard work for you to keep your physical, mental, and emotional health up. But without your help, your gut can’t be at its best.  Putting into practice the tips below will help your gut keep up the good work and allow you to not only enjoy your holiday season more, but allow you to feel good in your skin and step into 2021 feeling great!


1. Indulge yourself while taking care of yourself.

 A great way to do this is to upgrade your recipes by swapping out processed, harmful ingredients for higher quality and healthier ones (i.e. swap sugar with one of the countless healthier and delicious options like monk fruit, erythritol, allulose, stevia, xylitol or hybrids such as Lakanto, Pure Cane, Swerve, etc; swap wheat flour or high glycemic flours with coconut, almond, flax, hazelnut, or cassava flours; swap vegetable oil or margarine with avocado oil, olive oil, coconut oil, ghee or butter).
You can also incorporate gut-helping foods into your feasts. For example, you can add a good amount of dietary fiber to your dishes because they are good for gut microbes. Other prebiotic foods include asparagus, carrots, Brussels sprouts, sunchokes, onions, garlic, and nuts.
It can also be great to try new recipes so that you can add more gut-friendly ingredients on your dishes.

2. Slow down on alcohol.

If there ever was a holiday people wanted to numb out with alcohol, this is it. But do you really want to add a hangover, extra pounds, and gut inflammation to this extremely difficult year? No thanks! Skip the alcohol or drink small quantities of better quality alcohol like organic wine, gluten-free beer, hard cider, kombucha, etc. Mixed drinks that add a lot of extra sugar make it harder to drink in moderation and add a lot of extra work on your liver (which disrupts your hormones, sleep, mood, waistline, blood sugar, blood pressure…the list goes on and on).

3. Maintain a normal sleep routine.

Losing some zzz’s lessens the number of your gut microbes. It doesn’t totally mean that you should avoid evening celebrations, but it’s a great idea to opt for earlier celebrations and dinners whenever possible and keep your later nights to a minimum. 

4. Increase your level of serotonin.

This is perhaps the busiest time of the year for most of us–which can definitely be a source of stress. When your stress level increases, your colonic bacteria suffers. On the other hand, when your gut microbes are healthy and balanced, they can help you build resilience against stressful situations. A primary reason for this is because most of your serotonin (aka your happy brain chemical) is made in your gut! You can support your mood and serotonin levels in the following ways: exercise (especially aerobic exercise), getting plenty of sleep, getting outside in the light or getting bright light in the morning/day (if you don’t have much sun this time of year, consider a light box), and eat plenty of protein and nutrient dense carbohydrates (veggies, fruits rather than breads and sweets).
I’m sure that by choosing healthier options this holiday season, your gut will thank you, and in the end, it’s you who will benefit from it.
It is my passion to work with people like you whose health symptoms are getting in the way of you living life fully and with a sense of freedom in your body. I can help you to regain your health so you can feel great and free to enjoy life fully.
If you’re ready to discover where your best health has been hiding, I’d love to connect with you!
Apply for a complimentary Unstoppable Health Discovery Session. (subject to availability).

Until next time, I’m wishing you unstoppable health!

How to Support Respiratory Health with Smoky Air

We’re living in a tough time, especially here in California where we are dealing with horrendous wildfires.
But although the wildfires originated in California, the smoke has reached far and wide in the United States and the Pacific Ocean, so everyone must take precautions to protect our respiratory health.

Why is wildfire smoke dangerous?

Well, wildfire smoke contains very tiny liquid and solid particles known as aerosols that can degrade the quality of air that we breathe. And because they are microscopic in size, they can penetrate deep into the lungs. This causes trouble and can even create breathing problems for anyone, particularly people who have asthma. Everyone is at risk for heart disease and cancer if exposed to this kind of air pollution continuously.
If you are up-to-date about the wildfire, you can see that unhealthy levels of air pollution have affected Northern California and some parts of Southern California. Black carbon, or soot, not only is a factor for global warming but also is a direct harm to humans and animals when they enter the lungs and bloodstream.

So how do we support respiratory health during this time?

First things first: Whenever possible, avoid breathing smoke. If not, limit your exposure by following the guidelines issued by the Center for Disease Control (CDC):

  • Pay attention to public health messages. Always be updated with the news about the wildfire status and public health warnings. If you are instructed to evacuate your area, do so speedily.
  • Stay indoors and keep indoor air as clean as possible. Keep your doors and windows closed to prevent outdoor smoke from entering and keep your air filter clean. Once the outdoor air quality improves, open the windows to air out the house. In case you don’t have an air conditioner and the temperature goes up, consider going someplace temporarily that has cleaner air. 
  • Also, don’t add more pollution in your home. Avoid burning candles, incense, air fresheners, and smoking. It’s also good if you have some indoor plants that could filter air pollution and give off oxygen into your home.
  • Avoid vacuuming during this time (unless you have a built in vac) because it stirs up the air pollutants already in your home.
  • Properly wear an N95 mask or P-100 mask. Dust masks or cloth masks can only filter large particles so they can’t protect you from the aerosols in wildfire smoke. However, you should make sure that you wear the N95 or P-100 respirators correctly to be properly protected.
  • If you have asthma, lung disease, or cardiovascular disease, make sure to follow your healthcare provider’s advice and continue taking your medicines as directed. If your symptoms worsen or if you think you are going to have a heart attack, dial 9-1-1.

Sending safe and healthy wishes to you during this vulnerable time!