Cholesterol, Part Two: A Patient Guide

By Barbara A. Laurencio

If your cholesterol is too high, it's time to take action. Lowering your total cholesterol levels can reduce your chance of suffering a heart attack or stroke, or dying of heart disease. If you already had a heart attack, keeping your cholesterol under control is especially important to avoid another.

A word about “epidemic obesity” affecting Westernized societies

Everyone is hearing about the “obesity epidemic”. This can be blamed on our successful battle against hunger. Everyone now has access to the foods that their grandparents didn’t. We get fruit and vegetables in the winter, and meat doesn’t need to be hung outdoors. Refrigerators measure more than 8 cu feet, and freezers actually freeze things. Icemen don’t really deliver large cubes of ice to residences anymore. But now metabolic syndrome is estimated to affect approximately 25 percent of all adults in America. Metabolic syndrome is identified by the presence of 3 or more of the following:

  • Abdominal obesity, meaning a waist circumference greater than 40 inches in men or greater than 35 inches  in women
  • A triglyceride level greater than 150 mg/dL    
  • An HDL level lower than 40 mg/dL in men or lower than 50 mg/dL in premenopausal women
  • Blood pressure higher than 130/85 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg)
  • A fasting blood sugar level between 100 and 125 mg/dL

Metabolic syndrome, like type 2 diabetes mellitus which it leads to, is a risk factor for arteriosclerosis.

Managing diet and weight, and increasing physical activity can help bring low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol down to normal levels. In view of the absolute benefits of lowering the cholesterol in the population, the federal government in the form of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) has supported a National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) in establishing guidelines for diet and exercise by experts in every health field.

Diet. Saturated fat and cholesterol in the food you eat contributes to your total blood cholesterol level. Saturated fat in all forms, and trans fats are the main culprit. Reducing the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet helps to lower your blood cholesterol level. The diet recommended by the NHLBI’s National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) is a low-saturated-fat, low-cholesterol eating plan that calls for less than 7 percent of calories from saturated fat and less than 200 milligrams of dietary cholesterol per day. Trans fats are also to be avoided.

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