Monday, 2 June 2014

High Cholesterol Alert - Malaysians Need Dietary, Lifestyle Modifications

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DON’T DELAY: 10 million Malaysians need dietary, lifestyle modifications.

THE craving for an assortment of delicacies, fuelled by a round-theclock eating culture, has contributed to a spike in Malaysians with high cholesterol over the past six years.

The number of individuals suffering from high cholesterol or hypercholesterolemia — the chief risk factor for cardiovascular disease — rose from 20.7 per cent in 2006 to 35.1 per cent last year, according to the 2011 National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS). To date, some 10 million Malaysians have high cholesterol.

Also, one in five Malaysians is diabetic and more than 50 per cent are overweight or obese. Consultant cardiologist and Malaysian Heart Foundation director Datuk Dr Khoo Kah Lin said one out of three Malaysians suffered from hypercholesterolemia.

“Hypercholesterolemia is the leading cause of death in Malaysia over the past three decades, contributed by unhealthy lifestyle routines and dietary habits,” he told the New Straits Times.

“Patients who suffer from high cholesterol should change their lifestyle routines, especially if they smoke or do not follow a healthy diet.”

He highlighted that younger Malaysians, too, were suffering from heart disease because of high cholesterol levels.

National Heart Institute (IJN) chief executive officer Tan Sri Dr Robaayah Zambahari said the public should understand that cholesterol can be both good and bad and learn to balance them to reduce the risk of cardiovascular

“Not many know that what is more important than total cholesterol is the relative quantities of HDL (good) cholesterol in comparison with LDL (bad) cholesterol.”

She said there was a recommended multifaceted lifestyle approach called therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLC) to help reduce high bad cholesterol levels.

Dr Robaayah said the approach uses dietary and lifestyle modification, weight management, and physical activity, to reduce LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, while increasing HDL cholesterol levels.

"Omitting foods simply because they contain cholesterol is not the answer. A lot of patients tell me that following a TLC meal plan is akin to eating grass."

Dr Robaayah said there was generally a huge resistance among younger patients especially to eat healthily, as they were already accustomed to a high-fat Westernised diet and a sedentary lifestyle.

"Many do not realise that heart attack statistics prove that it is striking Malaysians, especially at a much younger age, compared with Asian counterparts."

She added that dairy products, meat and eggs, contained cholesterol, but avoiding these foods could prevent an individual from getting some of the important nutrients, such as calcium, protein, iron, zinc or B-vitamins.

"Instead, a balanced diet should be practised." Dr Robaayah said one needed to ensure that HDL cholesterol levels stay high, and LDL cholesterol levels stay low.

She added that most people should aim for an LDL level below 3.4 mmol/L (130 mg/dL). "Say a 50-year-old man's HDL is 36. We get it up to 40, which is about a 10 per cent increase, that would translate to a 20 per cent reduction in risk."

Dr Robaayah said there were medical conditions known to cause LDL levels to rise, including diabetes, hypertension, high levels of triglycerides, kidney diseases, liver diseases and underactive thyroid gland.

She said those who smoke, suffer from hypertension, have low HDL, a family history of early heart disease, and are older than 45 (for men), or 55 (for women), might also be in the higher risk group for heart disease.

"But they are all conditions which can be controlled medically. With the help of your doctor, they do not need to be contributory factors." - NewStraitsTimes


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