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Coping With Stress Helps Cholesterol

Good Coping Skills May Raise 'Good' Cholesterol Levels

Perspective: Stress and Cholesterol

It's been known for years, Aldwin says, that stress affects LDL and makes it rise.

"Stress raises total cholesterol levels in general and it raises LDL levels," she says.

The results "are consistent" with research by Peter Vitaliano, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, psychology, and health services at the University of Washington in Seattle. The new study, Vitaliano says, "adds to the body of research on how hostility relates to health, in particular heart disease."

Other research, he says, also found that "avoidance" coping, such as blaming oneself, is unhealthy and related to hostility and anger. "Both of those are related to blood pressure elevation and lower HDL," he says.

"Hostility is also associated with higher blood glucose levels in healthy people and in diabetics," he says, "and that raises the risk of heart disease."

Hostile people, he says, "often use emotion-focused coping," he says. "They use emotions like anger and avoidance instead of problem solving."

Ideally, total cholesterol levels should be below 200 mg/dL, according to the American Heart Association. HDL levels 60 mg/dL and above are heart-protective, while levels below 40 in men and below 50 in women are considered low and a risk factor for heart disease. LDL below 100 mg/dL is optimal, and below 130 is "near or above optimal." Triglycerides should be below 150 mg/dL.

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