Got control of cholesterol

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 4, 2013

When you ask someone from south Louisiana, “What is the best thing about living here?” The majority of them will say it’s because of the great food found in this area. No one holds their cuisine dearer than south Louisiana residents, with their fried seafood, boiled crawfish, gumbo, étouffée and jambalaya. Unfortunately, all of this delicious fried food, rich stews and roux coupled with a sedentary lifestyle can come at a price.
Eating a diet that is high in saturated fat can lead to high cholesterol because foods that are high in saturated fat are also high in cholesterol. The majority come mainly from animal sources, including meat and dairy products such as fatty beef, lamb, pork, poultry with skin, lard and cream, butter, cheese and other dairy products made from whole or reduced-fat milk. Approximately 25 percent of a person’s cholesterol comes from the food they eat. The other 75 percent comes from the liver and other cells in the body. Other risk factors that contribute to high cholesterol are gender, age, family history, weight and physical activity.
High cholesterol is one of the major controllable risk factors for cardiovascular disease, heart disease and stroke. According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States causing approximately 2,200 deaths each day.
“What’s so alarming about high cholesterol is that it doesn’t show any symptoms until other complications develop,” said Dr. José Cuscó, an internal medicine physician.
The American Heart Association recommends that all adults age 20 or older have a fasting lipid profile test once every five years or more often if a person has a high risk for the disease. This test measures total cholesterol, LDL, or bad, cholesterol, HDL, or good, cholesterol and triglycerides. Your doctor will tell you to fast nine to 12 hours before your blood test, which means that you should avoid consuming any food, beverages and medications. The reason patients are told to fast is because the amount of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides can be affected by what a person has recently consumed.
What does each test result measure? Total cholesterol measures all of the lipids in the blood. Excess lipids in the blood deposit in the lining of the blood vessels and lead to hardening of the arteries. A high triglyceride level along with a high LDL cholesterol level increases the chances of a heart attack. HDL cholesterol plays a role in reducing hardening of the arteries by removing excess fat from the blood, while LDL cholesterol is primarily responsible for causing hardening of the arteries.
If the cholesterol levels are higher than normal, the doctor will recommend a treatment and prevention plan, as well as follow-up testing to make sure the plan is getting the patient to his or her cholesterol goals. This could include lifestyle changes and possibly prescription medication. Some lifestyle changes would include eating a healthier diet with foods low in saturated fat and trans fat, losing weight, exercising regularly and quitting smoking or using other tobacco-related products. For some people, lifestyle changes alone aren’t enough to reach healthy cholesterol levels. In this case, the doctor may prescribe medication.
“It is important to follow your doctor’s instructions and take the medication as it is prescribed,” said Cuscó. “It won’t work if you don’t take it as directed.”
If a person has other risk factors for coronary artery disease such as high blood pressure or diabetes as well as high cholesterol, the risk for coronary artery disease increases. The more risk factors a person has, the greater his or her chance of developing coronary heart disease. Also, the greater the level of each risk factor, the more that factor affects a person’s overall risk.
“Don’t wait until you suffer a heart attack or stroke before learning that you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure or other risk factors,” said Cusco. “Take an active role in your health by having regular check-ups with your doctor and taking steps to improve your overall health.”
Cuscó, is an internal medicine physician on staff at River Parishes Hospital. His office is located in the River Parishes Hospital Medical Pavilion at 502 Rue de Santé, Suite 203, in LaPlace. Appointments may be made by calling 985-652-3500.
Appointments can also be made by calling River Parishes Hospital’s 24-
hour Phy-sician Referral Line at 985-653-4247 or toll free at 888-991-3627.