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Cholesterol Levels May Spike During Winter Months

Tendency to eat more, exercise less when it's cold and snowy outside may explain trend
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WebMD News from HealthDay

By Dennis Thompson

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, March 27, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Here's something that's sure to alarm the millions of Americans who have braved the fiercest, longest winter in recent memory: A new study shows that your cholesterol levels fluctuate seasonally and are at their worst during cold winter months.

The research, which included 2.8 million adults, brings to stark light the potential effects of comfort food and bad weather on a person's health during the winter.

"It's not just some weight that you're gaining" when you eat more and exercise less during the winter, said lead investigator Dr. Parag Joshi, a cardiology fellow at Johns Hopkins. "There are markers in your blood that are changing, and those markers contribute to heart disease."

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease analyzed cholesterol levels in more than 2.8 million Americans between 2006 and 2013, according to findings that were to be presented Monday at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology in Washington, D.C.

The investigators categorized each sample by the time of year it was taken, based on the summer and winter equinoxes, and then compared samples across seasons.

The study found that levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol were 3.5 percent higher in men and 1.7 percent higher in women during colder months.

Women and men had variations in total cholesterol of approximately 2 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) and 4 mg/dL, respectively, between the summer and winter.

On the other hand, levels of "good" HDL cholesterol did not seem to vary much by season, the findings showed.

Earlier studies have had similar results, but this is the first study to observe the fluctuations in this large a group. "You generate a lot of power if you have nearly 3 million unique individuals to observe," Joshi said.

The results make sense given the way people tend to respond to cold weather, said Dr. Gerald Fletcher, a cardiologist with the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., and a spokesperson for the American Heart Association.

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Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

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