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September 25, 2007 > Change Your Cholesterol, Decrease Your Risk for Heart Disease

Change Your Cholesterol, Decrease Your Risk for Heart Disease

Diabetes Matters Class Focuses on Diet and Lifestyle Changes

Typically, your blood sugar level is one of the first things that comes to mind when thinking about diabetes, a condition that occurs when the body does not produce or properly use a hormone called insulin, which is necessary to convert food like sugar and starches into energy needed for daily life.
Your blood sugar level is only a piece of the picture. A diabetes diagnosis is also a major predictor of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States and a major cause of disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
On Thursday, Sept. 6, Washington Hospital clinical dietitian Lorie Roffelsen, R.D., will present a Diabetes Matters class about the connection between diabetes and high cholesterol, a prominent risk factor for heart disease.
"I think the message is getting out to more people with diabetes that their overall lifetime risk for heart disease is very high - up to 80 percent, according to some studies," Roffelsen says. "The side effects of diabetes: inflammation, hyperglycemia and insulin resistance can cause changes in the layers of the cells that line the arteries, priming the body for increased risk of heart disease."
In fact, after a person has been diagnosed with diabetes, often his or her physician will treat them as though they already have heart disease, Roffelsen says, as a preventive measure. If someone has high cholesterol levels, their body is more likely to develop deposits in the arteries around the heart, increasing the risk of high blood pressure, stroke and blockages.
Lifestyle changes can help change cholesterol
Dietary choices affect cholesterol levels, Roffelsen explains, but so does heredity. For instance, if your mother or father developed heart disease or had high cholesterol levels, there is a likelihood you may as well. Many new drugs have been developed to help people whose genetics make it difficult to lower their cholesterol, but that doesn't mean people can stop eating healthy, Roffelsen warns.
"Some people with high cholesterol may think 'If I'm on the cholesterol lowering drugs, why do I have to make changes to my diet?'" Roffelsen says. "But in most cases, I think physicians would prefer that a patient try to eat healthy in addition to taking cholesterol medication because it may minimize the amount of medication taken."
During her talk, Roffelsen will explain the ins and outs of cholesterol measurements and she will also identify the foods that raise cholesterol levels, as well as foods that can actually help the body reduce cholesterol.
"Food choices that are high in saturated fats and trans fats are the ones that might contribute to high cholesterol," Roffelsen says. "To contain cholesterol, the food must have been an animal or have been made from an animal. For example, milk, eggs and meat are all sources of cholesterol. In addition to cholesterol, there is fat in a lot of foods. Saturated fat is higher in red meat and full-fat dairy products. Saturated fats are ones that raise 'bad' cholesterol. When you look at fish, it's a source of cholesterol, but low in saturated fat. By substituting fish for red meat, you lower the saturated fat."
On Sept. 6, Roffelsen will explain how people can lower their cholesterol levels and improve their overall health "one plate at a time." She will perform a "plate makeover," explaining how people can swap cholesterol-laden items for healthier ones. But she stresses that the changes that really count are the ones people can make over the long haul.
"To see a change in overall cholesterol levels, people have to make consistent changes," she says. "Heart disease may form over a long period of time. When you're starting out, just make one change a week, and if it's a change that will stick, then try following it with another change the next week."
The good news, according to Roffelsen, is that making changes to lower cholesterol levels can have a positive impact on other areas, as well. By eating healthier, people who have diabetes can maintain a healthy weight, lower blood pressure and stay in control of blood sugar levels.
"People who come to the lecture have grandkids, daughters and sons or other family members who maybe their concerned about cholesterol, and participants can bring this information home to their loved ones," emphasizes Roffelsen. "This is good for everyone to follow, not just those who have diabetes. This information can benefit everyone in the family."
Make a healthy change
To learn more about cholesterol and heart disease risk in relation to diabetes, join Washington Hospital clinical dietitian Lorie Roffelsen and other members of the community for the Diabetes Matters presentation, "Change Your Cholesterol One Plate at a Time." The class will be held from 7 to 8 p.m. in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont, followed by a group discussion from 8 to 9 p.m.
For more information about diabetes-related educational programs at Washington Hospital, visit, click on "Services and Programs," and select "Diabetes Services" from the drop-down menu.

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