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Senior Health Week: Cholesterol
Health News You Can Use •

Latest Cholesterol News:

Health Benefits of Statins Greater Than Previously Thought: Cholesterol-lowering statins should be prescribed to a wider circle of people who are at risk of having a heart attack or stroke, according to researchers.

Recent Cholesterol News:

New Cholesterol Test for Adults With Severe Coronary Artery Disease: The test, called Cholesterol 1,2,3, can help measure the amount of cholesterol in the skin using the palm of the hand.

Low Levels of "Good" Cholesterol Increase Risk of Dementia in Elderly: Researchers say low blood levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol increase the risk of dementia in the elderly due to hardening of the arteries.

Statins Cut Risk of Heart Disease in Postmenopausal Women: Researchers say treatment with a cholesterol-lowering statin drug can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and even death in postmenopausal women including those taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

Plant Compounds in Diet Help Cut Cholesterol Absorption: Researchers say phytosterols found in vegetable oils appear to be effective even when consumed at the trace amounts found in a normal diet.

Xenical Helps Obese Diabetics Improve Cholesterol Levels: Researchers say patients with Type 2 diabetes who were given Xenical lost weight, and had improvement in blood glucose (glycemic) control and cholesterol levels.

Drugs That Lower Cholesterol May Increase Risk of Polyneuropathy: Researchers say patients who taking statins were found to be four to 14 times more likely to develop polyneuropathy than the control group.

"Designer" Cooking Oil Results in Weight Loss and Lower Cholesterol Levels: A Canadian biotechnology company produced an oil that is oxidized very quickly and burned as energy rather than stored as body fat.

Natural Compound Made From Tree Resin May Lower Cholesterol: Researchers say sap from the guggul tree, used for centuries as a dietary supplement in India, blocks a receptor known as FXR that interrupts cholesterol metabolism.

Blacks and Mexican Americans Less Likely to Take Cholesterol Drugs: Researchers say African and Mexican Americans are less likely than whites to have their cholesterol levels checked and are less prone to take cholesterol-reducing drugs even when instructed to do so by a doctor.

New Drug Helps People Raise "Good Cholesterol" by 34 Percent: Researchers say the drug called a CETP inhibitor also helped participants in the study lower their LDL ("bad") cholesterol by 7 percent

Estrogen Produces Big Increases in "Good Cholesterol" in Some Women: Researchers say a gene variation appears to result in dramatic increases in "good cholesterol" when these women take estrogen therapy.

Cholesterol-Lowering Flavored Drink Has Health Benefit of Oatmeal: The drink formulation contains a soluble dietary fiber, found naturally in oats, that has the same health benefit as oatmeal in reducing the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.

Researchers Say Low Cholesterol May Not Benefit Seniors: Hawaiian researchers have cast new doubt on the benefits of reducing blood cholesterol in the elderly, saying that new research suggests that low cholesterol levels may do more harm than good for people over 70 years old.

High Levels of "Good Cholesterol" May Cut Stroke Risk for Seniors by Half: A high level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, or "good cholesterol," may cut by almost half the risk of stroke among seniors, blacks and Hispanics, according to a Columbia University Study.

Cholesterol Primer:

Blood cholesterol plays an important part in deciding a person's chance or risk of getting coronary heart disease (CHD). The higher your blood cholesterol level, the greater your risk. That's why high blood cholesterol is called a risk factor for heart disease.

When you have too much cholesterol in your blood, the excess builds up on the walls of the arteries that carry blood to the heart. This buildup is called "atherosclerosis" or "hardening of the arteries." It narrows the arteries and can slow down or block blood flow to the heart. The higher your blood cholesterol, the greater your chance of this buildup.

Almost everyone can benefit from lowering his or her blood cholesterol. Lowering cholesterol slows the fatty buildup in the arteries, and in some cases can help reduce the buildup already there.

Many Americans have had success in lowering their blood cholesterol levels. From 1978 to 1990, the average blood cholesterol level in the U.S. dropped from 213 mg/dL to 205 mg/dL.

Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in all parts of your body. It helps make cell membranes, some hormones, and vitamin D. Cholesterol comes from two sources: your body and the foods you eat. Blood cholesterol is made in your liver. Your liver makes all the cholesterol your body needs. Dietary cholesterol comes from animal foods like meats, whole milk dairy foods, egg yolks, poultry, and fish. Eating too much dietary cholesterol can make your blood cholesterol go up. Foods from plants, like vegetables, fruits, grains, and cereals, do not have any dietary cholesterol.

Just like oil and water, cholesterol and blood do not mix. So, for cholesterol to travel through your blood, it is coated with a layer of protein to make a "lipoprotein." Two lipoproteins you may have heard about are low density lipoprotein (LDL) and high density lipoprotein (HDL).

LDL-cholesterol carries most of the cholesterol in the blood. Remember, when too much LDL-cholesterol is in the blood, it can lead to cholesterol buildup in the arteries. That is why LDL-cholesterol is called the "bad" cholesterol.

HDL-cholesterol helps remove cholesterol from the blood and helps prevent the fatty buildup. So HDL-cholesterol is called the "good" cholesterol.

Your blood cholesterol level is influenced by many factors. These include:

  • What you eat--High intake of saturated fat, dietary cholesterol, and excess calories leading to overweight can increase blood cholesterol levels. Americans eat an average of 12 percent of their calories from saturated fat, and 34 percent of their calories from total fat. These intakes are higher than what is recommended for the health of your heart. The average daily intake of dietary cholesterol is 220-260 mg for women and 360 mg for men.
  • Overweight--Being overweight can make your LDL-cholesterol level go up and your HDL-cholesterol level go down.
  • Physical activity--Increased physical activity lowers LDL-cholesterol and raises HDL-cholesterol levels.
  • Heredity--Your genes partly influence how your body makes and handles cholesterol.
  • Age and Sex--Blood cholesterol levels in both men and women begin to go up around age 20. Women before menopause have levels that are lower than men of the same age. After menopause, a woman's LDL-cholesterol level goes up--and so her risk for heart disease increases.

All adults age 20 and over should have their blood cholesterol (also called "total" blood cholesterol) checked at least once every 5 years. If an accurate HDL-cholesterol measurement is available, HDL should be checked at the same time. If you do not know your total and HDL levels, ask your doctor to measure them at your next visit. Total and HDL-cholesterol measurements require a blood sample that is taken from your arm or finger. You do not have to fast for this test.

If you have had your total and HDL-cholesterol checked, check the chart to see how they measure up. Blood cholesterol levels of under 200 mg/dL are called "desirable" and put you at lower risk for heart disease. Any cholesterol level of 200 mg/dL or more increases your risk; over half the adults in the United States have levels of 200 mg/dL or greater. Levels between 200 and 239 mg/dL are "borderline-high."

A level of 240 mg/dL or greater is "high" blood cholesterol. A person with this level has more than twice the risk of heart disease compared to someone whose cholesterol is 200 mg/dL. About one out of every five American adults has a high blood cholesterol level of 240 mg/dL or greater.

Unlike total cholesterol, the lower your HDL, the higher your risk for heart disease. An HDL level less than 35 mg/dL increases your risk for heart disease. The higher your HDL level, the better.

In certain cases, it may be necessary to have your LDL-cholesterol checked, too, because it is a better predictor of heart disease risk than your total blood cholesterol. You will need to fast. That means you can have nothing to eat or drink but water, coffee, or tea, with no cream or sugar, for 9 to 12 hours before the test.. If your LDL-cholesterol level is high or borderline-high and you have other risk factors for heart disease, your doctor will likely plan a treatment program for you.

Following an eating plan low in saturated fat and cholesterol and increasing your physical activity is usually the first and main step of treatment. Some people will also need to take medicine.

Background information provided by: The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892





















































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