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FOR RELEASE: September 9, 2003
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Health Officials Encourage Grandparents to Check Cholesterol Levels

September is National Cholesterol Education Month

Grandparents are a special part of many lives and offer support, encouragement, and stability. Relationships among Oklahoma generations serve as a driving force for educational opportunities. During the month of September, we celebrate Grandparent’s Day and National Cholesterol Education Month. Health officials are asking that grandparents take this opportunity to learn more about their cholesterol levels and that of their loved ones.

“Your cholesterol numbers are crucial for knowing your chance of having a heart attack or stroke. In September, National Cholesterol Education Month, have your cholesterol checked by a health care provider. Then, find out your risk for heart disease and stroke - and how to lower it,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Leslie Beitsch.

High cholesterol is a critical risk factor of heart disease onset and contributes to 43 percent of coronary heart disease deaths. When there is too much cholesterol in the blood, plaque builds up in the walls of your arteries. Over time, this buildup causes hardening of the arteries so that they become narrowed and blood flow to the heart is slowed or blocked. The blood carries oxygen to the heart. When enough blood and oxygen cannot reach your heart, or if the blood supply to any portion of the heart is completely shut off by a blockage, the result is a heart attack.

If the plaque buildup in arteries loosens and flows to another part of the body, such as the brain, it is possible for it to cause a blockage, preventing blood flow and oxygen. Such a blockage may result in a stroke.

In Oklahoma, heart attack is the leading cause of death with stroke being the third leading cause of death. Everyone age 20 or older should have their cholesterol checked at least once every five years, according to health officials. The simple blood test, a fasting lipoprotein profile, measures total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. People with coronary heart disease (CHD) or diabetes are at the greatest risk for developing heart disease or having a heart attack.

Telling others, especially women, about the risk factors of heart disease and providing prevention education is an important focus of The Heart Truth campaign. Everyone should be aware of their LDL (bad) cholesterol level and other risk factors for CHD to evaluate their CHD risk. The factors that affect the risk of CHD include: cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, low HDL (good) cholesterol, family history of early heart disease, and older age.

If you have two or more of the above risk factors (other than high LDL), estimating your risk for having a heart attack in the next 10 years is recommended. A risk score over 20 percent is considered high. Find out your risk score with an online calculator from the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP), a public health initiative of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Go to the NHLBI ATP III web page at www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/cholesterol and look under “Information for Patients.”

“Many people can reach their LDL goal through therapeutic lifestyle changes, such as improving their nutritional intake, physical activity level, and weight management. Some, however, will also need medication, which can be prescribed by a physician along with lifestyle changes,” Beitsch said.

High cholesterol may be undetected because there are little or no signs or symptoms until a heart attack or stroke occur. One out of five Oklahomans has high cholesterol. Generally, healthy people with average cholesterol who lowered it reduced their risk for a first-time coronary event by 37 percent. Choosing nutritious eating habits, such as including five to nine fruits and vegetables a day, along with consistent physical activity at a moderate intensity, and the lack of tobacco use will help reduce high cholesterol to a healthy level.

For additional information regarding cholesterol control, contact your health care provider, local county health department, or the Oklahoma State Department of Health at 405/271-4072. The Heart Truth is a national public education campaign sponsored by the OSDH Chronic Disease Service, and the NHLBI.

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