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Focus On: Your Cholesterol

Why is Cholesterol Important?

Cholesterol is a type of fat found naturally in your blood. It is needed to make cell membranes, certain hormones and vitamin D. When there is too much LDL (bad) cholesterol in your blood, it sticks to the walls of your arteries making them narrow and blocked (coronary artery disease) which can cause a heart attack and stroke.

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What is a Healthy Cholesterol Level?

Your age and risk factors for heart disease will determine how often you should have your cholesterol checked and what your cholesterol and lipid (fat) levels should be.

Your physician can complete a blood test (after a 9 to 12 hour fast) to measure:

  • Total Cholesterol.
  • LDL cholesterol- known as “bad” cholesterol because it sticks to the walls of arteries, making them narrow and blocked.
  • HDL cholesterol - known as “good” cholesterol because it carries away the excess LDL cholesterol.
  • Triglycerides - a type of blood fat, that if too high, may also cause arteries to become narrow and blocked. Drinking too much alcohol can cause high triglycerides.
  • Total cholesterol / HDL cholesterol ratio.

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What Affects Cholesterol Levels?

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The Cost of Heart Disease

In 2009, the Public Health Agency of Canada, released a report entitled Tracking Heart Disease and Stroke in Canada (PDF 2.26MB, page 22 of 132)

  • In Canada, cardiovascular diseases cost the economy an estimated $22.2 billion/year.
  • In addition, another estimated $14.7 billion in indirect costs such as lost income, productivity, premature death and disability are attributable to cardiovascular disease.
  • These indirect costs are greatest for those 35-64 years of age.
  • In 2007, in Canada, an estimated 65.7 million prescriptions were dispensed for the treatment of Cardiovascular Disease.

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Taking Control of Cholesterol at Work

Follow these tips to help lower your cholesterol:

  1. Use Canada’s Food Guide to plan your meals and snacks.
  2. Pack a salmon sandwich for lunch – salmon and other types of fish such as char, herring, mackerel, sardines and trout contain omega 3 fats (PDF 2.69MB, page 26 of 60) which help to lower the risk of heart disease.
  3. Look for high fibre options when eating out – fibre helps to lower cholesterol levels
  4. Choose healthy snacks from vending machines and meetings.
  5. Become smoke-free. Smoking increases LDL “bad” cholesterol levels
  6. Get active. Being physically active (PDF 602KB, page 6 of 11) can improve HDL “good” cholesterol levels.

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Raising Awareness and Taking Action in the Workplace

Here are some ways the workplace can help employees take control of their cholesterol at work:

  1. Raising Awareness by providing information:

    • Display Canada’s Food Guide and information about dietary fats and fibre in the cafeteria
    • Arrange lunch and learn presentations on Healthy Eating, Physical Activity and Stress Management

  2. Environmental Support by creating an environment that supports health in the workplace:

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Facts & Stats

  • Teaching the importance of healthy eating, exercise, smoking cessation, and weight loss in the workplace has been shown to lower cholesterol levels.
  • Women with higher levels of trans fats in their blood are at a higher risk of heart disease.
  • Shift workers have low HDL-cholesterol and high triglyceride levels compared to day workers.  Both play a role in developing heart disease.
  • Eating Trans fats could cause 3 000 to 5 000 annual Canadian deaths from heart disease.
  • Canada’s Food Guide promotes choosing foods with less saturated and trans fats to reduce the risk of heart disease.

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Additional Resources

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Other Topics

 

Revised: July 31, 2014

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