Stress and Cholesterol stress and heart disease cholesterol and stres
Stress and Cholesterol
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Thought until recently to be irreversible, atherosclerosis can actually be reversed.

Stress and Cholesterol

Stress has been blamed for most of the ailments that plague us humans, and in many instances there is reasonable evidence to support the role of stress in a multitude of diseases. Can stress cause high cholesterol?

Can Too Much Stress Cause A High Cholesterol Level?

Since elevated cholesterol levels and the related cardiovascular diseases are so prevalent in our society, and since excessive stress is a fact of life for most of us, one would think extensive research looking at the relationship between stress and cholesterol has been done. A review of the medical literature available to date (June '06) reveals a surprisingly low number of studies on this topic. One of the reasons might be that stress is a rather difficult parameter to quantify with any degree of precision, and thus performing clinical studies with stress as the independent variable is a challenging undertaking.

This being said, there are a few studies out there providing some fascinating insights into the relationship between stress and cholesterol levels.

Preoperative Stress Can Elevate Cholesterol Levels

Back in the '70s, when the ill effects of high serum cholesterol were being decifered, a couple of researchers had the brilliant idea to investigate what happens to blood cholesterol levels when people go to the hospital for a surgical intervention. They ended up studying a total of 65 patients in whom they measured serum cholesterol levels before the surgery and at the time of discharge from the hospital. The preoperative rise of cholesterol varied from 40 to over 50%.

This finding has some interesting implications for people who are diagnosed with elevated cholesterol levels during a hospital admission. If the numbers are high enough, these patients are often started on cholesterol/lipd lowering medications in the hospital, and they are then discharged with instructions to continue to take these drugs for the rest of their lives. Cholesterol testing should better be done on an outpatient basis, and therapy, unless deemed imperatively necessary right away by a qualified physician, should be preceeded with therapeutic lifestyle changes, such as changes in diet, exercise, etc. These changes, if implemented adequately, can often have a significant impact on serum cholesterol levels - in fact, they were shown to be as effective as statins.

Other Types of Stress Cause High Cholesterol

My take on this topic is that stress is probably not a major determinant of cholesterol levels. What we eat, how much we exercise and our genetic makeup seem to be the big players in the lipid profile ecuation. However, there is a lot of room for serious, large-scale studies before we can give a precise answer to the question "How much does stress affect blood cholesterol levels"...

Until then, try to take it easy :-)

Dr Gily

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