WASHINGTON (March 27, 2014) Cholesterol levels fluctuate based on the time of year with more unfavorable lipid profiles seen in the colder months, a trend that may be driven by related behavior changes, according to research to be presented at the American College of Cardiology's 63rd Annual Scientific Session.
While previous studies have shown that heart attacks and heart-related deaths increase during the winter months, researchers at Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease were interested in finding out whether cholesterol parameters might follow a similar pattern among a sample of 2.8 million adults the largest study to look at seasonal lipid trends in U.S. adults to date. Abnormal cholesterol levels are a well-known cardiovascular risk factor.
"In this very large sample, we found that people tend to have worse cholesterol numbers on average during the colder months than in the warmer months not by a very large amount, but the variation is significant," said Parag Joshi, M.D., cardiology fellow, Johns Hopkins Hospital, and lead investigator of the study. "It confirms findings from smaller studies and raises a lot of interesting questions, including what might be driving these [fluctuations]."
Researchers caution these findings do not mean patients should have their cholesterol checked more frequently or at certain times of the year; the data instead validates a clear seasonal pattern and underscores the need to pay attention to behaviors that are critical to minimizing cardiovascular risk.
"In the summer, we tend to get outside, we are more active and have healthier behaviors overall," Joshi said. "In the colder months, we tend to crawl into our caves, eat [fat-laden] comfort foods and get less exercise, so what we see is that LDL and non-HDL [bad cholesterol markers] are slightly worse. So you have a lipid signature of higher risk, but it's probably driven by a lot of behaviors that occur with th
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American College of Cardiology