CHOLESTEROL WATCH

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Guide Offers Tips for the Cholesterol-Conscious

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health has issued a new publication designed to help those watching their cholesterol levels with the task of making lifestyle changes. The booklet, entitled Your Guide to Lowering Your Cholesterol with TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes), details a 3-part program of diet, physical activity, and weight management designed to help lower cholesterol levels.

The 80-page booklet is based on the National Cholesterol Education Program's (NCEP) guidelines on cholesterol management, which emphasize the importance of TLC, including heart-healthy eating, exercise, and weight control. According to James Cleeman,MD, coordinator of the NCEP, TLC is the cornerstone of cholesterol treatment, even for patients who are already taking cholesterol-lowering medications.

"Lifestyle is crucial for lowering cholesterol, but it's not enough to tell people it's important—you have to help them do it. This guide offers a set of tools to help people get started and to embrace a heart-healthier way of living," Dr. Cleeman said.

For an on-line version of the booklet, visit the NHLBI Web site at www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/chol/chol_tlc.htm.

Aggressive Statin Therapy Helps in Heart Crises

A new analysis of past studies has shown that early, intensive treatment with cholesterol-lowering statin drugs gives significant long-term benefits for people who suffer heart attacks or other acute coronary syndromes (ACSs). Researchers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington,DC, found that administering statin treatment to a patient with an ACS reduced the incidence of future ACSs over the next 2 years by more than 18%. The findings were published in the September 25, 2006, issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The investigators analyzed the results of 13 previous studies in which intensive statin therapy either was or was not begun for ~18,000 patients within 14 days of hospitalization for an ACS. They found that those receiving aggressive statin treatment showed major benefits, compared with patients who received either low-dose or no statin treatment. The benefits took over 4 months to accrue and were sustained for 2 years, during which time there was an almost 20% reduction in the risk of experiencing another ACS.

Virgin Olive Oil Is Best for the Heart

Most people know that olive oil is better for the heart than most other oils and fats. Not all olive oils are created equal, however. A new study shows that virgin olive oil may offer better protection against heart disease than refined olive oils because it contains more antioxidants. Virgin olive oil is made from the first pressing of olives and contains higher levels of a class of antioxidants called polyphenols than more refined olive oils that come from later pressings. Researchers state that polyphenols may provide additional heart-healthy benefits. The study was published in the September 5, 2006, issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Researchers compared the effects of consuming olive oils with different levels of polyphenols on heart disease risk factors in 200 healthy European men. They were divided into 3 groups: 1 group ate about 1 tablespoon of virgin olive oil a day, another group consumed the same amount of refined olive oil, and the third ate a mixture of the 2. They followed this regimen every day for 3 weeks; after a 2-week break, the groups were switched. The researchers found that the virgin olive oil increased the levels of high-density lipoproteins more than the refined oil or the mixture. It also increased the levels of substances in the body that prevent the oxidation of low-density lipoproteins, which is linked to the formation of clots in blood vessels.

New Classifications May Tag Teens at Risk for Future CVD

New criteria that take into account age and gender can accurately identify teens with abnormal blood cholesterol levels that put them at risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) when they become adults, according to researchers at the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. The results of the research were published in the September 2006 edition of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Several studies have determined that the buildup of fatty plaque in the arteries that can lead to CVD begins in childhood. This study is the first attempt to develop an age-and gender-based cholesterol evaluation system from teens, according to study coauthor Ian Janssen, PhD.

US guidelines recommend that teens be screened for abnormal cholesterol levels if their parents have cholesterol problems or if their family has a history of premature CVD (before age 55). The original thresholds for children (between ages 2 and 19) were established by the US National Cholesterol Education Program in 1992. Dr. Janssen stated that these thresholds are limited in their ability to identify teens who will have high-risk lipid levels as adults.