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Obesity Is Up; Hypertension, Cholesterol Down

Studies Show a Mix of Good News and Bad in Global Trends on Heart Risk Factors

Global Cholesterol Trends

When it comes to cholesterol, certain Western European countries, including Greenland, Iceland, Andorra, and Germany, had the highest cholesterol levels, while African countries had the lowest cholesterol, the new report showed.

Suzanne Steinbaum, MD, director of women and heart disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, is concerned that the increase in obesity rates may lead to an increase in blood pressure and cholesterol levels across the globe.

Our bad habits appear to be contagious, she says “We gave the Japanese and Chinese McDonalds and their cholesterol is going up,” she says. “The impact of Western diet on risk factors is so critical.”

“Even though obesity is increasing, we are making progress in some of the risk factors for heart disease, which are leading to a decrease in cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality,” says David Frid, MD, a staff cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. “The bad news is that obesity is increasing and is leading to an increase in diabetes and may ultimately offset the benefits we are seeing in other risk factors.”

Multi-pronged community-based efforts are needed to buck these trends. These include increasing physical activity in schools, making healthy foods as accessible as unhealthy choices, and aggressively identifying and treating risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

Call for Healthier Diets

Nancy Copperman, RD, the director of public health initiatives in the office of community health at the North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System in Great Neck, N.Y., agrees.

“The findings underscore the need for Americans to take action and adopt the changes recommended by the recently released 2010 Dietary Guidelines," she says. “Balance your calories, increase fruits and vegetables, switch to low-fat dairy products, and reduce sodium and sugars in foods and beverages.”

In addition to eating a healthier diet, she says, “We need to be sitting less and moving more, and building up to an hour of physical activity per day.”

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