Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Live chat with nurse Judy

Luke asks: “I recently had my cholesterol checked and it was high. 7.9 to be exact, but the HDL was high at 1.3. I am 33 years old, my mother and grand mother both have high cholesterol and take tablets. No family history of heart attacks before 50. I am fit and well, and very active. Gym 2-3 times per week, football twice a week. I changed my diet as I ate a lot of eggs, and now only have eggs once a week. I take benecol and use flora pro active butter. I have cut down on my saturated fat intake, and I eat more porridge, lentils, pulses, fish etc. I always have 5 a day in fruit and veg. I drink alcohol at weekends and probably consume between 20-30 units. I smoke 1-2 cigars at the weekend. I was surprised by my reading, as I am not over weight, and I have a good diet or so I thought. I have lowered it to 5.9 now, but I still need to lower it further. Is there anything more I can do?”
Judy says:

It’s great that you are doing lots of exercise each week and eating healthily, so it’s a shame that your smoking and drinking habits are so unhealthy. 20 to 30 units of alcohol over 2 to 3 days is excessive and way beyond the recommended guidelines of 2-3 units a day for men. Alcohol is very high in calories and binge drinking is potentially damaging to the liver and the heart. Smoking is also a significant risk factor for developing heart disease in the future. It sounds as though it’s the weekends that you struggle with – it might be worth trying to identify small steps you could take to change your weekend habits. Only you will know which steps are realistic and achievable but I recommend that you identify some tangible goals to reach as a starting point such as having one cigar instead or two, and take it from there until you have given up completely.

A family history of high cholesterol should not be ignored and it may be that you have a genetic condition called familial hypercholesterolemia. You can find more information on the condition here. Take this to your GP for further advice as you may benefit from taking a statin. But a healthy lifestyle is a vital part of reducing your risk of developing heart disease in the future. I wish you the best of luck in reducing our alcohol intake and with quitting smoking.

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