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THE NUMBERS GAME\Attempting to stay healthy and reduce the risk of stroke or heart\attack, Americans watch their cholesterol counts.

Byline: Kevin Ainsfeld Daily News Staff Writer

Robin Schyman once thought her petite figure gave her the green light to eat whatever she wanted, including chocolate - daily.

"I would eat it in any form," she said. "As a topping for ice cream or frozen yogurt, and during my day I would eat chocolate candy."

But Schyman, 37, of Westlake Village, couldn't understand why her cholesterol count was a whopping 397 when she weighed in at only 100 pounds.

That was 10 years ago, and her first reaction was to ignore it - until she discovered how dangerous her high-calorie, sedentary lifestyle
For anthropology, see sedentism.

Sedentary lifestyle is a type of lifestyle most commonly found in modern (particularly Western) cultures. It is characterized by sitting or remaining inactive for most of the day (for example, in an office.
 had become.

"It did make me nervous for the future. I was afraid of dying and that it would affect my longevity," Schyman said. "It was almost like I made the decision unconsciously. Once I decided I was going to do it, I was completely committed."

So what do you do when you find out your cholesterol has reached a potentially dangerous level of 240 or more?

Don't panic
For the Wikipedia guideline, see Wikipedia:Don't panic

Don't panic may refer to:
  • "Don't Panic" (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), a catchphrase from Douglas Adams'
. You can make a change for the better.

"Data shows that if a large amount of people lower their cholesterol significantly, they can reverse heart disease. It is never too late," said Daniel Eisenberg, a cardiologist and president of the American Heart Association American Heart Association (AHA), a national voluntary health agency that has the goal of increasing public and medical awareness of cardiovascular diseases and stroke, and thereby reducing the number of associated deaths and disabilities.
 in Los Angeles.

A combination of diet and exercise - and in some cases, medication - can produce benefits in four to six weeks, said Michael Levey, director of cardiac rehabilitation Cardiac Rehabilitation Definition

Cardiac rehabilitation is a comprehensive exercise, education, and behavioral modification program designed to improve the physical and emotional condition of patients with heart disease.
 at West Hills Regional Medical Center.

It may help to know you're not alone. Though awareness has caused the nation's cholesterol levels to decline from 240 to 220 over the last 20 years, Americans are still finding it difficult to change their high-fat ways, Eisenberg said.

"America is specifically oriented to foods that are high in fat. We have a taste for fat," Eisenberg said. "Fat is still found in everything we eat. People are confused about the truth. They don't know Don't know (DK, DKed)

"Don't know the trade." A Street expression used whenever one party lacks knowledge of a trade or receives conflicting instructions from the other party.
 who to believe."

The American Heart Association is trying to help people make sense of it all. Anyone with a family history of diabetes or heart disease, who smokes, has high blood pressure or is overweight is susceptible to higher levels of cholesterol, the buildup of white, waxy waxy (wak´se)
1. composed of or covered by wax.

2. resembling wax, especially denoting some combination of pliability, paleness, and smoothness and luster.
 fat that is manufactured by the liver.

But - and here is where some of the confusion creeps in - not all cholesterol is bad. High-density lipoproteins (HDLs) are beneficial because they search the blood stream for fatty substances and take them back to the liver. It's the low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) that are unwelcome: They stick to the walls of arteries, eventually slowing blood flow, referred to as atherosclerosis.

If left untreated, large buildups of this fatty plaque eventually can stop the blood flow in the cerebral or coronary arteries Coronary arteries
The two main arteries that provide blood to the heart. The coronary arteries surround the heart like a crown, coming out of the aorta, arching down over the top of the heart, and dividing into two branches.
, causing a stroke or heart attack.

Finger-prick tests that measure cholesterol can be found at health fairs and blood drives, but the most accurate reading is through a laboratory test, which reveals the ratio of HDLs and LDLs. Doctors recommend you fast for at least eight hours before taking the test.

Beginning at age 21, a cholesterol test Cholesterol Test Definition

The cholesterol test is a quantitative analysis of the cholesterol levels in a sample of the patient's blood. Total serum cholesterol (TC) is the measurement routinely taken.
 should be performed at least once, and then every five years if it's below 200, Eisenberg said. Tests should increase for borderline levels between 200 and 239, while anything above 240 is considered high and should be checked every six months until it has improved.

Robert Goka wasn't surprised to learn his cholesterol level was an unhealthy 252. The Northridge man has a family background of high blood pressure and strokes. Plus, he had smoked for about 15 years before he quit a decade ago.

"Psychologically," said Goka, 59, "(high cholesterol Cholesterol, High Definition

Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in animal tissue and is an important component to the human body. It is manufactured in the liver and carried throughout the body in the bloodstream.
) didn't do anything for me. I got other things to worry about more than that."

That is, until his doctor reminded him that his family's history should serve as a warning. He now eats a low-fat diet low-fat diet A diet low in fats, especially saturated fats, which has a positive effect on arthritis, CA, ASHD, DM, HTN, obesity, and strokes. See Diet, Low-fat snack; Cf Animal fat, High-fat diet.  and takes a cholesterol-reducing drug, which has brought his level to 193.

"I could die if didn't do anything," he said.

Rina Sherman of West Hills, on the other hand, never figured she would have a problem with cholesterol: She was a slender woman and had no family history of heart disease or strokes. Yet 10 years ago, her cholesterol came in at 265. Sherman is now taking a cholesterol-reducing drug and is on a low-fat diet.

"I wanted to find a way to get it down," said Sherman, who is in her 50s. "It is no good to get clogged arteries."

The first step for people whose cholesterol is found to be 240 or higher is to take the test again to make sure it wasn't a lab error, Eisenberg said. There may be other causes as well, like a thyroid or blood-sugar problem.

If it is determined to be caused by your diet, consider some changes in your eating before asking for expensive drugs that help lower cholesterol, Eisenberg said.

Ellen Bauersfeld, a registered dietitian registered dietitian,
n See dietitian, registered.
 and consulting nutritionist nu·tri·tion·ist
One who is trained or is an expert in the field of nutrition.

nutritionist Dietitian, see there
 in Tarzana, suggests using meat as a condiment, not a main entree. Shy away from Verb 1. shy away from - avoid having to deal with some unpleasant task; "I shy away from this task"
avoid - stay clear from; keep away from; keep out of the way of someone or something; "Her former friends now avoid her"
 saturated fats like butter, mayonnaise and blue cheese dressing Noun 1. blue cheese dressing - vinaigrette containing crumbled Roquefort or blue cheese
Roquefort dressing

dressing, salad dressing - savory dressings for salads; basically of two kinds: either the thin French or vinaigrette type or the creamy mayonnaise
 and opt, instead, for foods that are high in soluble fiber, like oat oat

member of the plant genus Avena in the family Poaceae.

see avenasativa.

oat grain
seed of Avena sativa, and as 'oats' the favored grain for the feeding of horses.
 bran, barley, beans and broccoli.

"On a 2,000-calorie diet, the total grams of fat should be less than 65 grams, and the total saturated fats should be less than 20 grams," Bauersfeld said.

At first, that wasn't so easy for Schyman. Used to eating anything she wanted, Schyman was resentful that she had to "read the labels on everything I bought.

"The first time (at the grocery store) made me depressed, and I also felt angry because I did not have a choice in it," Schyman said. "I looked at the people in the market buying chips and cookies, and they were doing something I couldn't do. I felt lonely, and this hurt."

Now she's a changed woman, having adapted to living on a restricted diet.

"I will be really hungry, but I can't stop and get fast food," Shuyman said. "I haeve to go to a decent restaurant and get something cooked to order. I can't be on the road and just go and get a candy bar. It takes a lot of planning just to eat out and to go traveling. I now carry fruit or nonfat non·fat
Lacking fat solids or having the fat content removed.
 snacks, rice cakes and crackers."

Exercise also is key to lowering bad cholesterol bad cholesterol LDL-cholesterol Cardiovascular disease Cholesterol transported in the circulation by low-density lipoprotein, the elevation of which is directly related to the risk of CAD and cholesterol-related morbidity See LDL-cholesterol. Cf Good cholesterol.  and bolstering your good cholesterol 'good' cholesterol A popular term for HDL-cholesterol, see there. Cf 'Bad' cholesterol. .

"As long as you are healthy and your doctor approves, go for a minimum of aerobic activity three times a week, such as walking briskly for 20 minutes to a half an hour, or some low-impact aerobics," Eisenberg said. "Try for a minimum of 20 minutes to half-hour every other day."

Finally, doctors will suggest medication - primarily in cases in which a person is genetically predisposed pre·dis·pose  
v. pre·dis·posed, pre·dis·pos·ing, pre·dis·pos·es
a. To make (someone) inclined to something in advance:
 to high cholesterol. More than 26 million prescriptions were written for cholesterol-lowering drugs in 1992, the latest year for which statistics are available.

While a variety of medications are prescribed by cardiologists and family physicians, Questran is most recommended to fight high cholesterol. Schyman, for instance, has lowered her cholesterol to 203 with the drug, which she will take for life.

"This sandy powder is the only cholesterol medication that does not affect the liver and acts as a sponge to block the absorption of cholesterol," said Steven Landis, a pharmacist at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Woodland Hills. "The only real side effect, though, is that it also blocks the absorption of other medications."

Statins Statins
A class of drugs commonly used to lower LDL cholesterol levels.

Mentioned in: C-Reactive Protein
 also are effective in reducing the liver's production of cholesterol and increasing the breakdown of the fatty substances already in the system.

Doctors say a cholesterol-lowering plan should include more than taking drugs. People should exercise more and reduce fat in their diets.

"You can't just say, 'OK, I am going to take a drug and then have a couple of Big Macs,' " said Levey of West Hills Regional Medical Center. "It takes a strong willingness to work at it."



Photo (1) When her cholesterol level hit e397, Robin Schyman said she became "nervous for the future" and changed her habits. One such alteration adding regular exercise in her Westlake Village neighborhood. Evan Yee/Daily News (2) Concerned about a cholesterol count that reached 265, Rina Sherman of West Hills prepares a healthy meal of veal marsala, a green salad, fruit salad and bread. Terri Thuente/Daily News (3) In stubbord or extreme cases, medicines are prescribed to reduce cholesterol. Myung J. Chun/Daily News
COPYRIGHT 1996 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:L.A. LIFE
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 22, 1996
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