LDL cholesterol a risk for heart attack
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am a 79-year-old female, 5 feet 2 inches tall and weigh 127 pounds. All my numbers are fine except for cholesterol, which is 151. My diet is low fat to no fat. I have nonfat yogurt every day. The last time my cholesterol was up, I cut out the yogurt and had oatmeal every day. My cholesterol went down to 145. My doctor wants me to take cholesterol medication. I would rather not. Is it the yogurt, or just my natural makeup that keeps my cholesterol high? — R.G.
ANSWER: Something is wrong here. A total cholesterol less than 200 mg/dL (5.18 mmol/L) is fine. You must be talking about LDL cholesterol, bad cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is the cholesterol that clings to artery walls and eventually clogs the arteries. It’s a risk for heart attack and stroke. The target reading of LDL cholesterol depends on how many other heart risks a person has. If your other risks are zero or one, a level less than 160 mg/dL (4.1 mmol/L) is acceptable. At age 79, almost no one is such a low risk for a heart attack. If you are at a moderate risk for a heart attack, the LDL level should be less than 130 (3.4). If you are at high risk, then the LDL goal is less than 100 (2.6). And if you are at very high risk, then the LDL should be 70 (1.8) or lower.
Risks are things like a family history of heart attacks, high cholesterol, high LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, little physical activity, obesity, diabetes and cigarette smoking.
I’m only guessing, but I would bet your goal for LDL is the 130 or 100 goal. Your doctor has to tell you what the real number is.
Nonfat yogurt isn’t responsible for your LDL numbers. Genes (your makeup) influence it — as they do everything. Have you stopped eating oatmeal? Why? It can bring the numbers down. A low-fat diet also works. “Low fat” means little red meat and low-fat dairy products. Some exercise, like a daily brisk walk, also helps.
Cholesterol is only one piece of the heart-attack puzzle. Sometimes I think we overdo the cholesterol thing. I don’t know your other heart-attack risks. Your doctor does, and those risks might be what’s prompting him to put you on medication for your LDL cholesterol.
The cholesterol booklet goes into depth on this subject. Readers can order a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue — No. 201, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-5475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: What’s considered the optimum amount of sleep time? — P.W.
ANSWER: The optimum number of hours for sleep is the number of hours that keep you alert during the day. It varies from person to person. If you want an average, it is seven and a half to eight hours.
I have heard sleep experts say you should waken without an alarm clock. Then you have slept long enough. I have a hard time swallowing this. Without an alarm clock, I wouldn’t wake until noon.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My husband has eaten eggplant every day for the past two years. I am concerned because eggplant is a night plant. He also eats the seeds. Should I be worried? — G.
ANSWER: Eggplant belongs to the nightshade plant family. This family has more than 2,300 different plant varieties. A few are poisonous, but the rest are not. Potatoes, tomatoes and peppers are other members of this family.
Eggplant has some vitamin A, some folic acid (a B vitamin) and lesser amounts of other B vitamins. It contains potassium, an essential mineral. One cup of eggplant has only 28 calories. Your husband is not going to become fat on his diet.
Eggplant won’t hurt him, even if he eats it every day, including its seeds. It would be a good idea to eat other vegetables too. There is something to be said for food variety, but he could have picked a much worse food than eggplant as his favorite food.
Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from www.rbmamall.com.

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