If the latest information on health and wellness is important to you, you will not want to miss a special live-streamed webcast, “Rethinking Cholesterol,” which will be aired on Thursday, September 24, from 12:30pm to 1:30pm Eastern time. The webcast, which is free to all viewers, is co-sponsored by Reuters, Harvard Health Publishing, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Harvard Medical School.
Recent science has brought new insights into the importance of controlling cholesterol for maintaining cardiovascular health. LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is a potent risk factor for heart and blood vessel disease. New research suggests that when it comes to protecting your heart, the lower your LDL cholesterol, the better.
How you can lower your cholesterol
There is much you can do with your diet to lower LDL cholesterol. Mainly, it is critical to reduce your intake of saturated fat and trans fat. These two forms of fat drive up LDL levels. Saturated fat is found in butter, cheese, other dairy products, and red meat. Trans fat is found in partially hydrogenated oils. By law, trans fats are supposed to be removed from all commercially prepared foods within the next three years. But until then, you need to carefully read food labels to avoid trans fat.
It is best to replace saturated and trans fat with polyunsaturated fats (soybean, corn, and sunflower oils) and monounsaturated fats (olive oil), which lower LDL levels. But you might be surprised to learn that cutting back on cholesterol-rich foods is of little help. Most cholesterol in your bloodstream is produced by the body and does not come from your food. Getting plenty of fiber may also help to lower cholesterol levels. Regular exercise is also important because it helps you control body weight and can raise levels of HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, which helps sweep fat from the bloodstream.
When you need a little more help than lifestyle changes alone
If diet and exercise don’t bring your cholesterol down to a healthy level, there are medications that can help. Statins have been the mainstay of drug therapy to lower LDL cholesterol. Statins are sometimes given in combination with ezetimibe, a drug that reduces cholesterol absorption in the intestine.
Powerful new medications, called PCSK9 inhibitors, have just recently become available. These medications are antibodies that promote the removal of LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream into the liver, where it can be processed. PCSK9 inhibitors can dramatically lower LDL cholesterol to levels not previously seen with other medications. But they must be given by injection under the skin, and currently, they are very expensive. Only time will tell if these low LDL levels translate into lower risk of heart and blood vessel disease, and if there may be unexpected side effects from driving LDL cholesterol levels so low.
Learn more about cholesterol and heart health from Harvard experts
If you want to understand more about cholesterol and cardiovascular disease — and the latest science and evidence-based recommendations to protect your heart — tune into this webcast on Thursday, September 24, from 12:30pm to 1:30pm Eastern time.
These issues will be discussed by four Harvard experts:
- Patrick O’Gara, Director, Clinical Cardiology and Executive Medical Director, Shapiro Cardiovascular Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Professor, Harvard Medical School.
- JoAnn Manson, Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Chief, Division of Preventive Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
- Paul Ridker, Director of the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention, Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Eugene Braunwald Professor of Medicine; Professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
- Frank Sacks, Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Professor of Cardiovascular Disease Prevention, Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Bill Berkrot of Reuters will moderate the conversation. You also might be interested our recent post about dietary fats and heart health by Dr. JoAnn Manson and her colleague Dr. Shari Bassuk.
You can view the live webcast at www.health.harvard.edu. We hope you will join us, but if you miss the live event, the webcast will also be recorded for later viewing.