[caption id="attachment_2223" align="alignnone" width="950"] (Canva image)[/caption] September is National Cholesterol Education Month, a good time to get your blood cholesterol checked and take steps to lower it if it is high. National Cholesterol Education Month is also a good time to learn about lipid profiles and about food and lifestyle choices that help you reach personal cholesterol goals. Below you will find some information about cholesterol and a summary of CDC programs that address cholesterol across the country. You will also find a few fact sheets and publications about cholesterol, as well as links to useful consumer and health care provider information on our partner Web sites. How many Americans have high cholesterol? More than 102 million American Adults (20 years or older) have total cholesterol levels at or above 200 mg/dL, which is above healthy levels. More than 35 million of these people have levels of 240 mg/dL or higher, which puts them at high risk for heart disease. What is cholesterol? Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in your body and many foods. Your body needs cholesterol to function normally and makes all that you need. Too much cholesterol can build up in your arteries. After a while, these deposits narrow your arteries, putting you at risk for heart disease and stroke. How do you know if your cholesterol is high? High cholesterol usually doesn’t have any symptoms. As a result, many people do not know that their cholesterol levels are too high. However, doctors can do a simple blood test to check your cholesterol. High cholesterol can be controlled through lifestyle changes or if it is not enough, through medications. It’s important to check your cholesterol levels. High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. How often should you have your cholesterol checked? The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP)External recommends that adults aged 20 years or older have their cholesterol checked every 5 years. Preventive guidelines for cholesterol screening among young adults differ, but experts agree on the need to screen young adults who have other risk factors for coronary heart disease: obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, and family history Less than half of young adults who have these risk factors don’t get cholesterol screening even though up to a quarter of them have elevated cholesterol. A simple blood test called a lipoprotein profile can measure your total cholesterol levels, including LDL (low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol), HDL (high-density lipoprotein, or “good” cholesterol), and triglycerides. Can children and adolescents have high cholesterol? Yes. High cholesterol can develop in early childhood and adolescence, and your risk increases as your weight increases. In the United States, more than one-fifth (20 percent) of youth aged 12–19 years have at least one abnormal lipid level. It is important for children over 2 years of age to have their cholesterol checked, if they are overweight/obese, have a family history of high cholesterol, a family history of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, or certain chronic condition (chronic kidney disease, chronic inflammatory diseases, congenital heart disease, and childhood cancer survivorship.4 The National Cholesterol Education has developed specific recommendations about cholesterol treatment for people at increased risk, such as those with a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease. If you have high cholesterol, what can you do to lower it? Your doctor may prescribe medications to treat your high cholesterol.5 In addition, you can lower your cholesterol levels through lifestyle changes:
- Low-fat and high-fiber food (Eat more fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and whole grains).
- For adults, getting at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous physical activity a week. For those aged 6-17, getting 1 hour or more of physical activity each day.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Don’t smoke or quit if you smoke.
[caption id="attachment_2235" align="alignnone" width="952"] (Canva image)[/caption] Back pain plagues many Americans, and new research shows that doctors are doling out muscle relaxant prescriptions to treat the pain -- often along with an opioid painkiller. Experts worry that muscle relaxants may not help much and could cause troubling side effects, especially in older patients. The study found the rate of long-term prescriptions for muscle relaxants to treat back and other muscle pain tripled between 2005 and 2016. Also concerning, nearly 70 percent of those prescribed muscle relaxants were given a prescription for an opioid pain-relieving medication like oxycodone (OxyContin) at the same time. Taking these medications together increases the potential risk of ill effects, the researchers said. Skeletal muscle relaxants are approved for short-term treatment of muscle spasms and back pain. Examples of muscle relaxants include baclofen (Lioresal), carisoprodol (Soma), cyclobenzaprine (Fexmid) and tizanidine (Zanaflex). Recommendations generally limit use of these drugs to a maximum of three weeks, since they have not been shown to work for muscle spasms beyond that time. Experts say these medications can be very sedating. Serious side effects associated with their use include dizziness, falls, fractures, car accidents, dependence and overdose. Muscle relaxants pose a significant risk to people over 65, and the American Geriatrics Society advises against their use in this age group. Despite this recommendation, nearly a quarter of office visits for muscle relaxants in 2016 were for seniors, the study noted. This group makes up less than 15 percent of the general population. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration cautions against using muscle relaxants and opioids together, noting the combination can cause difficulty breathing and death, according to background notes. The study was based on national prescribing data from 2005 to 2016. The researchers looked at the total number of visits a year, what medications were prescribed and if the prescription was new or ongoing. The most common reason people were taking muscle relaxants was to treat back problems. Experts say the research didn't look specifically at why doctors were prescribing these medications more, but he suspects there are at least a few factors driving the increase. One is that there aren't really any good alternative drugs, so doctors may not want to take them away. Another is that patients may put some pressure on their doctor to treat their pain. But skeletal muscle relaxants shouldn't be considered a first-line treatment for back pain or muscle spasms, experts say. He said physical therapy and over-the-counter medications like Advil or Tylenol can help lessen the pain.
[caption id="attachment_2232" align="alignnone" width="949"] (Canva image)[/caption] If you're 50 or older, you should discuss whether to have the exam with your doctor. Sure, it's uncomfortable, maybe even a little embarrassing. But it may be worth it. The doctor will manually check your prostate -- a walnut-sized gland that surrounds the duct connecting the bladder with the penis -- to look for signs of prostate cancer. The doctor will also check to see if your prostate is enlarged, a common problem in men who are middle-aged or older. If you've noticed problems with urination -- an urgent need to relieve yourself, a weak stream or leaking, or unusually frequent urination, especially at night -- you may have an enlarged prostate that's blocking the urine flow from your bladder. If you think this could be the case, call your doctor and ask about having the exam. The American Cancer Society recommends that doctors offer this procedure, along with information on its potential risks and benefits, every year to all men aged 50 and up with at least a 10-year life expectancy. Men at particularly high risk of prostate cancer (including African Americans and anyone with a first degree relative who had prostate cancer before age 65) should be offered the exam yearly beginning at age 45. Because uncertain results may lead to unnecessary biopsies, and because prostate cancer is often very slow growing and is generally diagnosed late in life (and therefore may have never caused problems even if left untreated), the American Cancer Society does not recommend routing screening for all men at this time. Some men may choose not to be tested once they consider all the pros and cons. What you should expect? Usually painless, the digital rectal exam, or DRE, takes a minute or less (though it may seem longer). The doctor will ask you to bend over or lie on your side; then he or she will insert a gloved, lubricated finger into your anus and check the rear surface of the prostate for abnormalities. Hardness or a lump, for example, might be a sign of prostate cancer. Are there other tests for prostate cancer? There's a blood screening known as the PSA test. The PSA test is more effective than the digital rectal exam in detecting cancer, but the DRE sometimes picks up cancers the blood test misses. The manual exam isn't an ideal screening tool either, though. Your doctor can't feel tumors that are on the front of the prostate or buried in the middle. But because the exam is cheap and simple, you may decide there is little reason not to have it. What if the doctor finds a lump? Don't panic; it doesn't necessarily mean you're in trouble. About half of the time, a suspicious bump in the prostate turns out not to be cancer. If both your exam and your PSA test suggest that cancer may be present, your doctor will likely order a biopsy so that a sample of tissue can be examined under a microscope.
[caption id="attachment_2226" align="alignnone" width="950"] (Canva image)[/caption] Children and teens in America are three times more likely to be overweight than they were 30 years ago. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, about one out of four U.S. children is now overweight or obese. While there are a few mysteries and unanswered questions behind this epidemic, some of the causes are painfully clear. Young people in the country may be the least active generation in history, and they're also world-class consumers of high-fat, high-calorie junk food. The extra weight has set off a wave of obesity-related conditions in children and teens, including asthma, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. There has even been an upsurge in cases of childhood type 2 diabetes, an illness that used to be extremely rare before middle age. Overweight children are also vulnerable to depression and low self-esteem. Even though more kids than ever are on the heavy side, the stigma remains. Obesity is a serious, long-lasting health problem that young people can't be expected to tackle on their own. It has to be a family effort. It's going to take a group effort to help your child reach a healthier weight and a healthier life. Your family or doctor can help by checking for weight-related health problems such as high blood pressure and or prediabetes. Many hospitals offer weight loss programs specifically aimed at children and teens. But no matter how much help you get from the outside, much of the work will have to happen at home. Here are some tips from federal health agencies to help your child stay active:
- Make time for the entire family to participate in activities that everyone enjoys, perhaps walking, bicycling, or swimming.
- Plan active family outings. A hike out of town would be a great way to spend time together.
- Give kids active chores like raking leaves or washing the car.
- Enroll your child in a fun class or activity, perhaps swimming lessons, dance lessons, or flag football.
- Talk with your child about the possibility of joining a sports team at school. It doesn't have to be a varsity team; intramural sports can be plenty active, too.
- Limit your child's screen time -- TV, video, and recreational time on the computer -- to no more than two hours a day.
- Reduce or eliminate sweetened beverages, including soda.
- Add more vegetables to family meals.
- Make sure your family is eating a high-fiber diet.
- Make sure your child is getting enough sleep.
- Eat together as a family as often as possible.
- Be a good role model. Enjoy healthy food in front of your child.
- Limit your child's screen time to no more than two hours per day.
- Encourage your child to be active.
[caption id="attachment_2229" align="alignnone" width="951"] (Canva image)[/caption] If you want to live longer, you should choose beans over beef for your protein, a new analysis suggests. "These findings have important public health implications as intake of plant protein can be increased relatively easily by replacing animal protein and could have a large effect on longevity," the researchers reported. Diets high in protein from plants -- such as legumes (peas, beans and lentils), whole grains and nuts -- have been linked to a lower risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke, while diets high in animal protein have been linked with a number of health problems. However, there have been conflicting findings on the association between different types of proteins and the risk of early death, so a group of researchers analyzed 32 studies that examined the risk of death from heart disease, cancer and any cause in adults aged 19 and older. During a follow-up of up to 32 years, just over 113,000 deaths occurred among more than 715,000 participants in the studies. A high intake of total protein was associated with a lower risk of all-cause death. Consumption of plant protein was associated with an 8 percent lower risk of death from any cause and a 12 percent lower risk of death from heart disease. Consumption of animal protein was not significantly associated with risk of death from heart disease or cancer. Data from 31 of the studies also showed that an additional 3 percent of energy from plant proteins a day was associated with a 5 percent lower risk of death from any cause, according to the findings published July 22 in the BMJ. Possible reasons for the beneficial effects of plant proteins include lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, which might help reduce the risk of conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes, officials say. Further research is required, but the study results "strongly support the existing dietary recommendations to increase consumption of plant proteins in the general population," the researchers said in a journal news release.