Public enter ‘clogged artery’ to understand health risks

Due to popular ignorance about dangers of heart disease and stroke from too much cholesterol, professional medical societies launch first National Cholesterol Awareness Day.

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October 20, 2010 04:30
3 minute read.
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health operation surgery 88. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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Sixty-five percent of the population are unaware of how much low-density lipoprotein (LDL) they have in their blood, while 1.2 million Israelis have excess amounts, and only a third of those diagnosed are being treated with medications.

This is true even though all general practitioners and family physicians are supposed to send their patients for testing on a regular basis.

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Due to popular ignorance about the dangers of heart disease and stroke from too much cholesterol, professional medical societies and pharmaceutical companies on Tuesday launched the first National Cholesterol Awareness Day, which they hope will become an annual event.

A large inflated chamber of red cloth, whose inside looks like a coronary artery clogged with and narrowed by fatty plaque, was set up at the edge of Jerusalem’s Mamilla Mall, near the Jaffa Gate to the Old City.

Hundreds of passersby extended their fingers to be pricked to test (for free) their levels of LDL and other blood fats.

Sheba Medical Center’s Prof. Dror Haratz, chairman of the Society for Research and Treatment of Atherosclerosis, told The Jerusalem Post under the hot sun near the display that the body needs only a small amount of cholesterol to be produced by the body to live. But due to the West’s society of plenty, many people have far too much cholesterol. This accumulates in the endometrium of blood vessels and is liable to cause a heart attack or stroke. Thus the situation is like a “ticking bomb,” he said.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (a marathon runner who runs several kilometers to work a few times a week) came to the Mamilla site to express support for the cholesterol awareness campaign. So did Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, who declined a blood test, saying he had undergone one only a month ago. But Litzman endorsed the doctors’ call for the public to be tested regularly.



People at high risk, including those with heart disease, diabetes or a stroke in their medical history, have to observe even lower LDL levels of below 70 mg/deciliter; those at moderate risk should have less than 130 and preferably less than 100, Haratz declared.

The Sheba expert said that everyone – including children – should be tested regularly to determine their LDL levels, which can be reduced by a healthful lifestyle including diet (such as the addition of olive oil) and exercise. But those with excessive, dangerous levels are best advised to take medications, which are “safe and almost free of side effects.”

Some of the people on line for the blood test said they were afraid of having their blood fats level tested, even though they had been told that it is treatable; others said they had no time to go to the doctor or knew their LDL level but wanted to know if it had changed.

Five physicians from Sheba and Wolfson Medical Center sat under a tent to advise people who were told their cholesterol levels were too high.

They advised eating less saturated fat (found in butter, fatty cheese and red meat); eating fish twice a week; and avoiding trans fats (found in margarine and commercial cookies, cakes and pastries).

Statins are the family of drugs that substantially lower LDL levels. Sometimes more than one type of drug is needed.

Kupat Holim Meuhedet announced on Tuesday that starting on December 1, it will give subsidized Lipitor pills (made by Pfizer) to people with excessive cholesterol as a primary medicine instead of only to those who have failed to lower their LDL with cheaper medications.

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