New research published in the journal Circulation suggests that unhealthy cholesterol levels can affect your risk for heart failure, a serious condition that occurs when the heart can't pump enough blood throughout the body.
Researchers analyzed data from nearly 7,000 men and women enrolled in the Framingham Heart Study. The study was designed to identify common factors that contribute to heart disease risk.
None of the volunteers, whose average age was 44 years, had heart disease at the start of the study. But after 26 years of follow-up, 680 people had developed heart failure.
Researchers compared heart failure rates to participants' HDL and non-HDL cholesterol levels, as measured at the start of the study. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is often called "good" cholesterol because it lowers risk for heart disease. Non-HDL cholesterol (total cholesterol minus HDL) consists of different types of low-density lipoproteins. This type is associated with increased risk for heart disease.
Heart failure rates were lowest among volunteers with high HDL levels (at least 55 mg/dL in men and 65 mg/dL in women) and highest among those with high non-HDL cholesterol (at least 190 mg/dL).
When researchers factored in age, sex, body mass index, blood pressure, diabetes, and smoking, they found people were:
In addition to these heart failure findings, the risk for heart attack among the study group was 13 percent higher in participants with high non-HDL cholesterol and 25 percent lower in those with high HDL cholesterol. These findings are in line with prior research.
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Cholesterol levels tend to rise with age. Also, you are more likely to have unhealthy cholesterol levels if it runs in your family. But there are things that you can do to help prevent or control unhealthy cholesterol levels.
Eat a healthy diet. Avoid food with trans fat, and limit foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy foods, and whole grains.
Be physically active. Try to be active for at least 2 1/2 hours every week. Physical activity includes anything that raises your heart rate, including brisk walking, working in the house, gardening, or playing sports.
Maintain a healthy weight. Eating right and getting active can help you stay lean or lose weight. If you are overweight, talk with your doctor about a weight-loss plan.
Finally, don't forget to get your cholesterol checked regularly. Everyone age 20 and older should have his or her cholesterol levels checked at least once every five years. Talk with your doctor if you need your cholesterol checked.
Always consult your physician for more information.