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Shorter Days, Higher Cholesterol
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As summer ends, keep an eye on those lipids
 
Women who already suffer from high cholesterol are at greater risk than men to see a rise in their lipid levels during winter months, and even women without cholesterol problems will still have a cholesterol spike as cold weather approaches. Female participants in a 2004 study had an increase of as much as 18 points during the winter months, seven points higher than their male counterparts. Researchers do not know exactly why there is a seasonal difference in cholesterol levels, although many believe that the changes could be related to blood volume, which naturally increases during warmer months; it is also possible that decreased physical activity during the winter months may contribute to cholesterol rise.

The research suggests that doctors may want to check a patient’s cholesterol level more than once, and perhaps during different seasons, before prescribing treatment: "A single cholesterol reading at any given point in time is only a snapshot in a moving picture that can vary over time,” says Dr. Ronald Krauss of the American Heart Association. Dr. Ira Ockene, the University of Massachusetts cardiologist who led the 2004 study, emphasized that cholesterol patients could become discouraged if a diet and medication plan begun in late summer did not show positive results during the ensuing winter months.

517 men and women between the ages of 20 and 70 participated in the Massachusetts study, starting out with an average cholesterol level of 222 for men and 213 for women, below the 240 mark which is considered high. Cholesterol levels were measured every three months, resulting in an average increase of 4 points for men during the winter, peaking in December, and 5.4 points for women, peaking in January. However, those participants who already had elevated cholesterol above 240 points saw larger increases
of 11 points for men and a whopping 18 points for women. Researchers still do not understand why women see higher increases than men in cholesterol levels, or if temperature control could aid in the prevention of coronary heart disease.
 
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