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For Cholesterol Control, Experts Urge More Than Meds
Date:12/28/2010

using cholesterol-lowering drugs won't necessarily help a person who hopes to avoid heart disease.

British researchers who pooled and re-analyzed data from 11 cardiovascular studies found that taking statins did not reduce cardiac deaths among people who had not developed heart disease.

The finding has been questioned, however, by some medical experts, who note that the research did find an overall reduction in cholesterol levels linked to statin use. "I have to tell you that belies a lot of the other science," Bufalino said of the study.

High cholesterol is strongly connected to cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the American Heart Association. Nearly 2,300 Americans die of cardiovascular disease each day -- an average of one death every 38 seconds.

Cholesterol, which is a waxy substance, occurs naturally in the human body. In fact, the body produces about 75 percent of the cholesterol needed to perform important tasks, which include building cell walls, creating hormones, processing vitamin D and producing bile acids that digest fats, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The other 25 percent of a person's cholesterol is ingested in foods that are eaten.

But many people's diets include the wrong type of cholesterol. They eat foods loaded with saturated fats or trans fats, which increase levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the bloodstream.

LDL, the so-called "bad" cholesterol, forms plaques on the sides of artery walls, narrowing the arteries and forcing the heart to work harder to pump blood. Saturated fats are found in most animal products, and trans fats are found in processed foods that contain hydrogenated oils.

But other foods are rich in "good" cholesterol: high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. It acts as the bloodstream's garbage truck by rounding up and hauling off some of the bad cholesterol.

These days, it's
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