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Seasonal Cholesterol

Provocative new research shows cholesterol levels vary with the seasons, reaching their highest levels in the winter months.

Dr. Jennifer Mieres, a cardiologist with the American Heart Association, stopped by The Early Show to discuss the results of the study. She also talked about its implications for prevention and treatment of high cholesterol.

Cholesterol, an essential part to life, is found in cell walls and hormones. Eighty percent is manufactured by the liver, the other 20 percent comes from sources outside the body. When too much cholesterol is taken into bodies, it builds up over time in the cardiovascular system.

The Archives of Internal Medicine research found seasonal variation in cholesterol levels, with a peak in the winter and a trough in the summer. Although the exact cause is unknown, there seemed to be a relationship between changes in temperature and/or physical activity in winter and summer and cholesterol levels.

The researchers say the information provided by this study could assist in the continuous development of guidelines for the treatment of high cholesterol, but they do not think that season-specific guidelines would be justified. A variety of studies have suggested that cholesterol levels are higher in the fall and winter than they are in the spring and summer, and a concern is that the variation might possibly result in larger numbers of people being diagnosed as having high cholesterol in the winter.

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