Older adults can cut their cholesterol levels by adusting their dietary fat intake, even if they are already on cholesterol-lowering statins, a new study finds.
Conventional wisdom holds that people should follow a healthful diet and get regular exercise to help control their cholesterol and triglycerides (another type of blood fat). But there's actually been little research into how well older adults' cholesterol and triglyceride levels respond to diet changes.
In the new 10-year study, researchers looked at the effects of dietary-fat changes among 900 Australian adults age 49 and older. At the outset, 5 percent were taking a cholesterol medication, usually a statin; a decade later, one-quarter were using drugs to manage their cholesterol.
Overall, the study found, people who managed to reduce their intake of butter, and saturated fats in general, showed subsequent dips in their total cholesterol levels -- regardless of whether they were on a statin medication.
At the same time, "good" HDL cholesterol levels increased when study participants started eating more fish and omega-3 fatty acids -- healthy, unsaturated fats found mainly in oily fish like salmon, trout, sardines and mackerel. People who boosted their omega-3 from food also experienced lower triglyceride levels.
The findings imply that older adults can make a difference in their heart health by increasing their intake of heart healthy fats.
Importantly, it also appears that the benefits of reducing saturated fat and increasing omega-3 fat are the same for those on statins and those who are not.
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