Health

High Cholesterol Levels Rising in People in Asia

Image: NSNBC

Recently, a new study led by researchers at Imperial College London, shows that the cases of the people with high cholesterol levels are rapidly decreasing in different Western countries but increasing at the same time in low to middle-income countries situated in Asia.

The study, which is among the largest ones conducted on the issue of high cholesterol in the world, was funded by the British Heart Foundation and Wellcome Trust.

According to the findings of the study, which was held for thirty-nine years from the year 1980 to the year 2018, there are around four million people who lose their lives because of health conditions caused by high cholesterol levels.

Nearly half of these deaths occur in Southeast, South, and East Asia which indicates that the cases of high cholesterol levels are rising among the continent.  The researchers reached this conclusion after assessing data of over one hundred million people from two hundred different countries.

Cholesterol is a substance found in the body which is fundamental for building healthy and strong cells in the body. There are two kinds of cholesterol with different density levels.

High-density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol is needed by the body and is healthy. On the other hand, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol can cause a number of serious issues in the body and needs to be controlled to prevent conditions like heart attack and stroke.

Read more: PFAS Exposure Linked to Hormonal Abnormalities in Women 

The modern-day diets are loaded with saturated fats and trans fats which can significantly increase the levels of bad cholesterol in the body. However, studies have indicated that the Western standard diet remains to be very high in processed foods and sugary carbohydrates both of which are associated with raised LDL levels.

This is why statins or cholesterol-lowering medicines are commonly prescribed and used by the majority of adults in the US. The new study, whose findings appear in the journal Nature, shows that this trend in western countries is changing, which may be due to multiple reasons.

According to research, the decrease in high cholesterol levels in adults may be due to reasons such as a higher awareness among the people about health and diet as well as the popularity of Mediterranean diets or vegetarian diets in the western world.

While this is good news for public health for North America, countries in North-western Europe, and Australasia, the majority of the Asian countries, particularly those in the southeast region are seeing a rising number of cases of high cholesterol particularly in low to middle-income countries.

Read more on health effects of LDL cholesterol on heart health here. 

For instance, China, which was previously noted to have the lowest LDL or bad cholesterol levels in its population, was seen to have the biggest increase in non-HDL cholesterol levels in the thirty-nine year period of the new study.

Professor Majid Ezzat from Imperial’s School of Public Health, who was the leading author of the study explains that this surprising change has been noted for the first time by researchers. Usually, high cholesterol levels are expected to be higher in western countries rather than in Asian countries by the medical community.

However, the new findings suggest that there is a need for introducing new policies and pricing that can cut down the number of trans and saturated fat in the diet all over the world and just not in western nations.

In addition, health systems should also be equipped with facilities and prepared for tackling cases of high cholesterol levels in people. Doing so can make a significant difference and save millions of people from developing serious health issues as well as losing their lives.

 

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Abeera I. Kazmi

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