High Cholesterol

“Among people with high cholesterol, Hispanics are 36% less likely than non-Hispanics whites to have properly controlled cholesterol, which increases their risk for heart disease. Heart disease is the number one killer of US Hispanics (including both Hispanics and Latinos) claiming lives of nearly 35,000 Hispanic Americans each year.

According to the American Heart Association 49.9% of Mexican-American men and 50% of Mexican-American women have high or borderline high total cholesterol levels. Studies have shown that if you or your family have your ethnic origins in a Spanish speaking country, you are at an increase risk of developing high cholesterol and heart disease. Although research shows that this increased risk has a lot to do with your genes, lifestyle choices can either positively or negatively impact your personal risk.

Scientist are certain that lifestyle choices play a role in cardiac health. Obesity which is a risk factor for both high cholesterol and heart disease, is more common among Hispanics than whites. In fact, The National Center for Health Statistics report that 52% of Mexican-American women and 40% of Mexican-American men are overweight. By comparison 33% of white women and 34% of white men are overweight.

So what is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a type of fat made by your liver. Some cholesterol is in the food that you eat. Foods that come from animals such as eggs, meat and dairy products have cholesterol in them. Foods that come from plants don’t have cholesterol. But its not just the cholesterol in food that counts. Foods high in saturated fat can also raise your cholesterol level, because your liver turns saturated fat into cholesterol.

There is “bad” cholesterol low-density lipoprotein (LDL). The more LDL you have in your blood, the higher your risk of heart disease.

There is “good” cholesterol high-density lipoprotein (HDL). This type lowers your risk of heart disease. Some of the best ways to improve your cholesterol is eating less saturated fats, more unsaturated fats, more high-fiber foods, more soy protein, and more fish. Also the most important is exercise. Regular exercise decreases the bad cholesterol and increases the good cholesterol, lowers triglycerides, and lowers blood pressure and body weight. You don’t have to change your entire eating style overnight. The most important thing is to make a small change, incorporate this change into your life and then make another change to your eating habits.

Remember this formula:

lose weight + eat well + lower cholesterol + exercise + stop smoking = a healthy heart.

Michelle J. Alexandre, MD