Health Tips: Do you have an inherited risk for cholesterol woes?


In large airports, the Transportation Security Administration seizes around 2,000 pounds of prohibited items every month. That’s a screening system we’re all glad is in place. Here’s another one: genetic screening. When it’s used in combo with clinical criteria, such as your LDL cholesterol level (or, even better, your apolipoprotein B level) and/or that a family member had a heart attack at a young age, it can alert you to an inherited trait that causes extremely elevated levels of lousy LDL cholesterol, called familial hypercholesterolemia.

A recent study reveals that if health screenings were combined with genetic testing, more than 1 million Americans with an increased inherited risk could be ID’d.

It appears that one of every 1,000 U.S. adults has one gene for familial hypercholesterolemia. Those folks are, on average, at risk for a heart attack at age 50 (men) and age 60 (women). That compares to age 66 for men and age 72 for women without the predisposing gene. If you happen to have two genes for the disorder? Cholesterol and cardiovascular problems start earlier -- and so does heart disease.

Unfortunately, there’s no national screening program to identify who’s at risk. So it’s up to you. If you’re 16 or older, get a test for your level of apolipoprotein B and cholesterol. Find out if anyone related to you has had a heart attack before age 60. If that’s the case and you have elevated apolipoprotein B and/or LDL, talk to your doctor about lifestyle and medication steps to save your life.

How to harness the powers of individual forms of fiber

“The future of our nation,” said former Tennessee governor Phil Bredesen, “depends on our ability to produce food and fiber to sustain the world.” And it is equally true that your individual future as a healthy person depends, in part, on your ability to consume fiber that sustains your inner world.

But what kind of fiber? After all, all fibers aren’t the same. Some are insoluble, meaning they pass right through you, doing a splendid job of housecleaning from mouth to exit ramp. Some are soluble, meaning you can digest them and improve your gut and heart health. But until recently, not much was known about the particular benefits of individual forms of soluble fiber.

That’s why scientists from the Stanford School of Medicine decided to look at the impact of eating two soluble fibers: AX (arabinoxylan), which is found in whole grains such as wheat, corn, rice, rye, oat and barley, and LCI (long-chain inulin), which shows up in onions, Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, leeks and bananas. Their study, published in Cell Host & Microbe, discovered that AX was associated with a significant reduction in lousy LDL cholesterol. A moderate intake of LCI was associated with a decrease in inflammation markers and an increase in a good-for-the-gut bacteria called Bifidobacterium that protect you from leaky gut and reduce the risk of colon cancer. Both provide health boosts. So, eat a variety of fiber to improve your heart and gut health and check out the Cleveland Clinic’s online article “11 High-Fiber Food You Should Be Eating.”


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