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Cholesterol Counts When it Comes to Protecting America's Heart Health

For Immediate Release:
August 1, 1999

September is National Cholesterol Education Month

"Keep the Beat--Cholesterol Counts for Everyone." That's the theme for National Cholesterol Education Month in September.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP), which it coordinates, urge all Americans to remember that controlling cholesterol helps keep hearts healthy. NHLBI is part of the National Institutes of Health.

"Watching your cholesterol should be part of everyone's health routine, even for young adults and older Americans," said NHLBI Director Dr. Claude Lenfant. "It's especially important for those with coronary heart disease."

NCEP sponsors the cholesterol month effort. NCEP will launch an expanded cholesterol-lowering Web site in September as part of the month's education activities (see more below).

High cholesterol is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease (CHD), the leading killer of Americans. Americans' lifetime risk of developing CHD is very high. One out of every two men and one out of every three women aged 40 and younger will develop CHD at some time in their lives. Even for 70-year-olds, the risk remains high.

The buildup of cholesterol in arteries begins early in life--often in adolescence--and worsens over time. Research shows that young adults with the lowest cholesterol levels will live longer than those with higher cholesterol levels. In fact, the cholesterol level of a 22-year-old predicts the risk for heart attack over the next 40 years.

The almost 13 million Americans who already have CHD need to pay special attention to their cholesterol levels. They should reduce their level of low density lipoprotein (LDL, the "bad cholesterol") even further than persons without CHD. Clinical studies show that, by doing so, Americans with CHD can prolong their life and dramatically reduce their chance of having a heart attack.

Older Americans too should make cholesterol control a part of their healthy lifestyle, according to the NCEP, which will publish a report on cholesterol-lowering and the elderly in early August in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

"The benefits for all Americans from controlling their cholesterol are great," notes NCEP Coordinator Dr. James Cleeman. "And the steps needed to take control are straightforward."

Those steps are: Eat a healthy diet lower in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol; be physically active; maintain a healthy weight; and, if necessary, take medication.

To help Americans take the steps, the NCEP has created a special Web site--check it out at www.nhlbi.nih.gov/chd/ [link was retired]. The site, which premiers with its new features on September 1, offers easy-to-understand information about the prevention and treatment of high cholesterol. It has a special section for those with CHD. The site lets users face up to the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol they actually eat; get the skinny on portion sizes; create a diet based on the foods they like and the calories they need; become an expert at navigating food labels; and discover easy ways to increase physical activity. The site also has English and Spanish television public service announcements and radio broadcasts about various cholesterol topics.

Information about cholesterol, including heart-healthy recipes, also is available by contacting the NHLBI Information Center at P.O. Box 30105, Bethesda, MD 20824-0105. The telephone is (301) 592-8573; the fax is (301) 592-8563.

NHLBI and NCEP hope Americans will make September the start of a new heart healthy lifestyle by remembering: "Cholesterol counts for everyone."

To arrange an interview about National Cholesterol Education Month, contact the NHLBI Communications Office at (301) 496-4236.