UMMS cardiologist: Get off the couch to lower cholesterol

Better diets are lowering levels, says new JAMA study

By Jim Fessenden

UMass Medical School Communications

October 17, 2012

ockene-iraCholesterol levels in U.S. adults are dropping steadily according to a new study in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association. But according to UMass Medical School cardiologist Ira Ockene, MD, if more people would put down their remotes, those levels would plummet even more.

Analyzing nationally representative data, the JAMA study authors indicated that between 1988 and 2010 there has been a trend of declining average levels of total cholesterol, non-high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol for U.S. adults overall.

“Studies going back into the 1980s have shown that cholesterol levels of the U.S. population have been declining, and more recent studies have suggested that although some of that decline is related to drug therapy, over half of it is a function of diet change,” said Dr. Ockene, the David J. and Barbara D. Milliken Professor of Preventive Cardiology and professor of medicine. “But few Americans are as active as they should be. Throw away those remote controls!”

Ockene said the country has seen a huge shift in what people eat, but must also focus on becoming more active.

“Although the American diet is still far from ideal, one has to only look at the dairy case in the supermarket to realize that the majority of products are now low-fat or no-fat,” he said, when asked to respond to the latest news on cholesterol levels. “It is important to understand that diet does make a difference. It is of course also true that the reduction in cholesterol would have probably been greater if not for the fact that America has been getting progressively heavier, which not only raises cholesterol on its own, but leads to more and more individuals becoming diabetic, which is a very potent and serious risk factor.”