Cholesterol Month Reminder: Emory Cardiologist Says Know Your Numbers
And Also Learn Which Fats Can Raise Or Lower Them
National Cholesterol Month, time to make sure you know your cholesterol
level. It's also an opportunity to learn how what you eat can impact
cholesterol and your heart's health.
"We now know it's not as
simple as eating less fat," says Emory Heart Center cardiologist Laurence
Sperling, M.D. "Not all fat is bad and some kinds are far healthier
for your heart than others."
Cholesterol is a soft, fatty
substance found in the blood that is needed by the body to form cell
membranes and certain hormones. According to the American Heart Association,
approximately 100 million Americans (about one-third of the population)
have excessive levels of total cholesterol -- when cholesterol is over
200, the risk of heart disease and stroke is increased. Those at greatest
risk are the 41 million Americans whose cholesterol is higher than 240.
"Paying attention to the
type of fats you eat can go a long way to both lowering low-density
lipoprotein (LDL), the so-called 'bad' cholesterol, and raising high-density
lipoprotein (HDL), the artery protective type of 'good' cholesterol,
" says Dr. Sperling, Medical Director of Preventive Cardiology at Emory.
"And with many people turning to low carbohydrate, high fat diets to
lose weight, it's especially important to realize that all fats are
not the same."
For example, saturated fats,
which are derived primarily from animal products and include the fat
found in butter and meat, are known to raise cholesterol levels. Even
more detrimental to cholesterol levels are trans fats, created when
hydrogen atoms are forced into liquid oils to make them solid at room
temperature. "Trans fats, which are often found in snacks and fast foods,
raise LDL and lower HDL, just the opposite of what we would like to
see happen," notes Dr. Sperling. "To avoid trans fats, read labels and
skip foods that contain 'hydrogenated' or 'partially hydrogenated' oils."
Dr. Sperling notes that fats
found in nuts, fish and vegetables are far healthier choices for your
heart. "Choose polyunsaturated fats like soy products, corn oil, safflower
and sunflower oil. And eating monounsaturated fats, including olive
oil and almonds, as well as fatty fish like salmon that contain essential
fatty acids, can actually help reduce total cholesterol levels," he
Dr. Sperling urges common
sense when eating any fats. "Fats tend to be high calorie foods, and
maintaining a healthy weight is an important way to keep cholesterol
at a healthy level, " he says.
In addition to eating a heart
healthy diet, Dr. Sperling also advises regular exercise and working
with your physician - and taking cholesterol lowering prescription medication
if appropriate - to lower high cholesterol levels and reduce heart disease
The Emory Heart Center
is comprised of all cardiology services and research at Emory University
Hospital (EUH), Emory Crawford Long Hospital (ECLH) Carlyle Fraser Heart
Center, the Andreas Gruentzig Cardiovascular Center of Emory University
and the Emory Clinic. Ranked in the top ten of U.S. News & World Report's
annual survey of the nation's best Heart Centers, the Emory Heart Center
has a rich history of excellence in all areas of cardiology - including
education, research and patient care. It is also internationally recognized
as one of the birthplaces of modern interventional cardiology.