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The Running Doctor: Exercise and Cholesterol

Published 2:40 pm, Wednesday, March 19, 2014
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The old message for many years was to engage in regular exercise for good cholesterol.

Research has long suggested that even light to moderate exercise can have many positive effects on one's cardiovascular health.

Today, the message is similar, but with a small tweak.

The most important piece of cardiovascular health in regards to cholesterol is the physical structure of cholesterol in the blood stream. There are two forms of cholesterol in the body important to our discussion, LDL, which is considered dangerous, and HDL, which can prevent heart attacks.

Both cholesterol types moves in the blood by attaching to protein particles. When in the blood stream, cholesterol is more likely to clog the arteries when it is carried by smaller, denser protein particles, as opposed to much larger ones.

Recently, a study has shown that people who only exercise lightly tend to develop the larger particles and do not lower their LDL significantly. Results for participants that walked and jogged a total of 12 miles per week were roughly the same. The latest findings show that only rigorous exercise, such as jogging 20 miles a week, can elevate one's HDL levels and produce a pronounced change in LDL.

The new testing of measuring protein particle size is more commonly performed in larger medical complexes and may very well become more widely used in the coming years.

For those interested in lowering their cholesterol, jogging can be enjoyed at any age. From a physiological standpoint, it is an excellent form of exercise that puts a moderate amount of stress on the cardiovascular system.

However, anyone over the age of 40 should consult with their doctor prior to starting an exercise program and be sure to wear good footgear.

Dr. Robert F. Weiss is a podiatrist specializing in foot and ankle surgery. He was a member of the Medical Advisory Committee of the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Marathon trials. Weiss is a veteran of 35 marathons and has a practice in Darien, The Foot & Ankle Institute of Darien. For more information, visit his website at www.therunning doctor.net.

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