Seasonal Cholesterol Changes
Q: High cholesterol runs in my family, so last year my doctor suggested I
get my levels checked every six months, just to be safe. In August they were
normal, but when I went back a few weeks ago my reading was several points higher.
I haven't changed my diet since then. Does that mean it's time to
go on cholesterol-lowering drugs?
Dr. Donnica: What did your doctor recommend? The answer to this
question depends upon a lot of information you didn't give me including
your total cholesterol (both times), your triglycerides, your LDL (the "bad"
cholesterol) and your HDL (the "good" cholesterol. New cholesterol
treatment guidelines released in July 2004 from the National Heart, Lung and
Blood Institute urge more aggressive use of cholesterol-lowering drug therapy,
particularly in people with two or more risk factors for coronary heart disease
(CHD). These risk factors include race (African American), age (over 50 for
men or menopausal for women), family or personal history of CHD, elevated cholesterol,
cigarette smoking, elevated blood pressure, diabetes, sedentary lifestyle, and
obesity. If your HDL is high (over 60 mg/dL), that would cancel out one other
risk factor. You should note that several of these risk factors are modifiable.
In addition to following a low-cholesterol diet, you should try to reduce your
other risks as well.
Another interesting finding comes from a recent study (Archives of Internal
Medicine, 4/04) from the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. After
a year studying 517 healthy men and women with borderline high cholesterol,
researchers found a seasonal variation in blood cholesterol levels: They peaked
during autumn and winter but declined in spring and summer. On average, the
difference was only 5 mg/dL higher in winter in women. While these results are
intriguing, the study authors acknowledge that making season-specific cholesterol
guidelines based upon them is unwarranted.
Created: 11/24/2004  - Donnica Moore, M.D.