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Keep an eye on cholesterol levels

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News,Sara Schwartz

In the middle of all the holiday-planning hustle and bustle, take note that November is American Diabetes Month, and according to diabetes.org, nearly 21 million children and adults in the United States are living with diabetes, and another 54 million people are at risk. So how can one protect him or herself and learn more?

People should be aware of three main factors: blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. All three should all be checked regularly.

The Examiner had the chance to ask Bob Huffstodt, president and CEO of Polymer Technology Systems, maker of CardioChek, a few questions about CardioChek, a device that checks cholesterol, glucose, ketone and triglyeride levels. Huffstodt answered questions via e-mail.

Q Most people think that they’re "too young" to watch or check their cholesterol. When should the typical adult start to pay attention to cholesterol ratings?

A It’s never too early to pay attention to your cardiovascular health because the buildup of fatty plaque in arteries begins in childhood. Eventually, that buildup can lead to coronary heart disease in adults. If your family has a history of heart disease, the American Heart Association says it’s a good idea to screen your child for high cholesterol. Everyone should start getting their cholesterol tested at age 20.

Q Are there any specific foods or supplements that people can eat or take to lower their cholesterol?

A People who are trying to lower their cholesterol should eat foods that are low in saturated fat and trans fat. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes are all high in dietary fiber and part of a heart-healthy diet. Oatmeal’s soluble fiber and the polyunsaturated fatty acids in walnuts and almonds have been shown to help reduce LDL cholesterol. Fish with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon and albacore tuna, help lower triglycerides and lower blood pressure. Supplements containing garlic extract, sitostanol, oat bran, fish oil, and beta-sitosterol all may have positive effects on cholesterol and cardiovascular health.

Q What’s the difference between good and bad cholesterol?

A Cholesterol is a normal part of everyone’s body composition. It’s in your bloodstream and every single cell. Cholesterol is a fat-like, waxy substance that helps your body to build cell membranes and metabolize some vitamins. Two main types of cholesterol exist — low density lipoprotein (LDL) and high density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL is often termed "bad" cholesterol because it can build up in arteries. The plaque that forms increases the risk for blood clots which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. HDL is known as "good" cholesterol because high levels of HDL are associated with protection against heart attacks. Low levels of HDL increase the risk of heart disease.

Q Why does the CardioChek also check glucose, ketone and triglyerides? What do those have in common with cholesterol?

A Glucose, ketone and triglyceride levels all play a role in overall cardiovascular health. People who have abnormal levels of one cardiovascular health indicator often have problems in the other areas as well — that’s why CardioChek tests multiple risk factors. It can give people a glimpse into their overall cardiovascular health — not just one area.

Triglycerides are a fatty substance made in the body. People with high levels of triglycerides often have high total cholesterol, high LDL cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol. High levels of triglycerides, as well as glucose and ketone levels, can all indicate risk for diabetes. CardioChek is not intended to replace the glucose meter used by someone who has diabetes to monitor their condition. However, heart disease is the cause of death for the majority of diabetics, so the CardioChek is a natural complement to such testing.

Q How often should people check their cholesterol?

A CardioChek Can be used as often as desired. We find that most people who have elevated total cholesterol levels and are actively making lifestyle changes or are starting medication to lower those levels check their cholesterol monthly. People who are fortunate enough to have healthy levels of cholesterol already typically check their levels less often.

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» For more information about CardioChek, visit cardiochek.com.

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