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LDL cholesterol

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  • LDL cholesterol

    Hi BBM, I'll cut to the chase:

    My father is a 60-year old, 185cm, ~120 kg overweight male and I had been slowly trying to direct him towards long-term weight-loss for years.
    His blood work had been fine up until recently, at least in my opinion (I'm a molecular biologist with a background in laboratory diagnostics).
    However, the most recent blood test analysis indicates that his total serum cholesterol and LDL cholesterol are 5.9 mmol/L and 5.0, respectively (~228 g/dL and 193,35 g/dL if I'm not mistaken).

    His doctor gave him a blanket statement, telling him that there's no reason to worry and that he should "just correct his nutrition a bit".
    I strongly disagree. I told him that it's not a reason to panic, but explained the risks associated with obesity, and suggested a gradual, but tangible weight loss goal throughout the following years. I will try to help him change his habits.

    I would like to hear your opinion on this matter, am I exaggerating?

    Thanks in advance,

  • #2

    Thanks for the post. I can appreciate that this is a matter very near and dear to your heart. I feel similarly about my father's health.

    A few thoughts here:
    1. With respect to his blood lipid panel and heart disease risk, there are additional risk factors like blood pressure, HDL-c, history of smoking, diabetes history, etc. that should be considered to fully characterize his risk. That said, the current recommendation for people like your dad is to get LDL-c below 4.9 mmol/L. He is just above that and so, lifestyle changes (e.g. diet and exercise) may be appropriate if he has no other risk factors, this is his first abnormal reading, and follow-up will be performed in ~6 months or so to determine response and the need for further intervention, e.g. statins. For more on cholesterol, heart disease risk, etc. check our latest articles out here and here.
    2. As far as risk of disease from excess body fat, his doctor is mistaken IF he said that your dad wouldn't benefit from weight loss. His risk of developing 100's of medical conditions would decrease and, if he has any existing health problems, the trajectory of those conditions would also improve. If your dad could lose ~5% of his body weight and keep it off, his short- and long-term health would be much, much better. It'd be cool if he would exercise too, of course.
    As far as how-to "get" your father to do this, that's another matter. If your dad is open to changing his dietary pattern and physical activity habits, then you can pass go and skip right to hashing out a plan based on his preferences for both. If he is not ready to make a change or expresses resistance, which is totally normal btw, then the conversation has to be shifted towards what sort of barriers (perceived ones count too!) are currently in play that make him resistant to engaging in these behaviors. Navigating those barriers to make the health-promoting behavior the default is key for behavioral change.

    Hope this helps.

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