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What is the importance of my cholesterol level?

More than half of the people who die in the United States each year die of heart and blood vessel disease. The underlying problem causing these deaths is atherosclerosis, which is commonly called "hardening of the arteries". Within the artery, a soft fatty-like material accumulates on the arterial wall. This accumulation or "plaque" grows larger and larger, and eventually may completely stop the flow of blood to the heart muscle. When this happens, that portion of the heart muscle will die, causing the pain known as a heart attack. This can also happen in an artery leading to or in the brain, likewise causing a part of the brain to die. This event is known as a stroke.

There is a clear relationship between the reduction of fat in the diet and the reduction in the likelihood of developing either plaque formation in the heart arteries or in the blood vessels supplying the brain. Studies around the world tend to corroborate the strong correlation between a high serum cholesterol level and the incidence of heart attacks, strokes, and sudden death. When the serum cholesterol level is above 200, the increased risk for any of these events may rise as much as 1% for every 2 points of elevation in the serum cholesterol level. Not only is the total serum cholesterol level important, but also the HDL (high density lipoprotein), or good cholesterol, and LDL (low density lipoprotein), or bad cholesterol. The breakdown of these cholesterol components is extremely important in assessing an individual's risk for heart disease or stroke.

There are some dietary elements which not only help improve a patient's lipid profile, but also seem to be somewhat protective. These nutrients include small amounts of mono-unsaturated fat and large amounts of fruits and vegetables high in vitamin A and C. The preferred source in obtaining these important nutrients is directly from foods, such as broccoli, potatoes, cantaloupe and oranges. Vitamin tablets are okay as a supplement, but should not be the primary source or considered as a replacement for natural nutrients.

Furthermore, the importance of cholesterol-lowering drugs has been well established over the past few years. In particular, patients with known heart disease can greatly reduce their risk by taking a cholesterol-lowering drug, in addition to carefully watching their diet, further incriminating the role of cholesterol in the genesis of atherosclerosis.


Galichia Medical Group, P.A.
2600 N Woodlawn
Wichita, KS 67220

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