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FOR RELEASE: September 20, 2005
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

One in Three Oklahoma Adults Has High Cholesterol
September is National Cholesterol Education Month

There are no signs or symptoms of high blood cholesterol and at least one in three Oklahoma adults have been told by a health professional that they have it. According to health officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), people with high cholesterol have a greater chance of getting heart disease or having a stroke, which are the leading causes of death in Oklahoma.

“Ongoing education is needed to prompt Oklahomans to have their cholesterol checked. In 2003, a study of Oklahomans’ health behaviors found that 24.7 percent of Oklahoma adults had never had their blood cholesterol checked,” said OSDH Chronic Disease Service Chief Adeline Yerkes. “Getting your cholesterol checked is one of the primary steps to take in order to decrease your risk for heart disease or stroke. It is crucial.”

Yerkes said everyone age 20 and older should have his or her cholesterol levels checked at least once every five years. “Speak with a doctor or health care provider to determine how often you should have your cholesterol checked. Then do it. Know what you can do to change your cholesterol levels to be healthier,” she emphasized.

To help improve your blood cholesterol levels, follow these recommendations:

  • Reduce the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet. Read labels for fat and cholesterol content. Eat five to nine servings of fruits or vegetables daily and increase fiber in your diet by eating whole grain products.
  • Lose seven percent of your current body weight to help lower your total cholesterol, especially your LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
  • Include 30 to 45 minutes of physical activity in your daily routine to decrease your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and improve your HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
  • If you have one or more risk factors for heart disease and stroke and you have high blood cholesterol, work with your health care provider to find out what you should be doing to make improvements. The risk factors are high blood pressure, diabetes, family history of heart attack or stroke before 55 years of age, smoking, overweight or obesity, and physical inactivity.

Some factors that affect high cholesterol cannot be changed, such as age and gender. Cholesterol levels tend to rise with age and post-menopausal women’s cholesterol levels are apt to rise as well. In addition, genetic factors may make some persons more likely to have higher cholesterol levels.

Many people are unaware that their cholesterol is too high. Too much cholesterol in the blood can build up in the walls of arteries (blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to other parts of the body). This buildup of cholesterol is called plaque and over time, plaque can cause narrowing of the arteries, called atherosclerosis.

The following chart provides guidelines* on what good cholesterol levels should be:

Total Cholesterol Level - Total Cholesterol Category
Less than 200 mg/dL - Desirable
200-239 mg/dL - Borderline high
240 mg/dL and above - High

LDL Cholesterol Level - LDL Cholesterol Category
Less than 100 mg/dL - Optimal
100-129 mg/dL - Near optimal/above optimal
130-159 mg/dL - Borderline high
160-189 mg/dL - High
190 mg/dL and above - Very high

HDL Cholesterol Level - HDL Cholesterol Category
Less than 40 mg/dL - A major risk factor for heart disease.
40 - 59 mg/dL - The higher, the better.
60 mg/dL and above Considered protective against heart disease.
*ATP III guidelines, National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, 2001

There are currently two treatment options for high cholesterol. The Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) option includes a cholesterol-lowering diet called the TLC diet, which uses nutrition recommendations and physical activity to control cholesterol. TLC is for anyone whose LDL is above goal. The other treatment option is TLC plus medication to help lower LDL. Your physician or health care provider will be able to tell you about the treatment option that is best for you.

For additional information regarding cholesterol control, contact your health care provider, your local county health department, or the OSDH Chronic Disease Service at (405) 271-4072.

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