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Weather Linked to Changing Cholesterol Levels, Study Finds

Update Date: Mar 08, 2013 09:42 AM EST

The winter may not just be about dealing with brutal snow and low temperatures, as people appear to be experiencing higher levels of cholesterol during this time of the year, a study reports. During the American College of Cardiology conference, taking place this weekend Mar 9-11 in San Francisco, CA, researchers revealed their findings regarding lipid levels and weather. The Brazilian researchers found that weather might be a key factor in increasing "good" cholesterol and "bad" cholesterol during different times of the year, but they did not find whether these changes contributed to heart diseases or other complications.

The head researcher, Filipe Azevedo Moura MD from the State University of Campinas in Brazil looked at the cholesterol levels in 227,000 people provided by primary care centers in Campinas. After analyzing the numbers, Moura noticed that the patient's low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which is considered to be "bad" cholesterol, increased by seven milligrams per deciliter during the wintertime, which was an eight percent increase from the patient's average number. During the summertime, the patient's high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the "good" cholesterol, increased by an average of 9 percent. The patient's triglycerides, which are fat levels, also increased by 5 percent during warmer weather.

Moura's research did not find whether or not these changes in cholesterol increased or decreased the risk for heart disease during different times of the year. He also noted several other factors that could have contributed to these different rates of cholesterol. For example, diets change with the seasons since people's appetites are different. In addition, people might be exercising less in the wintertime since the cold tends to keep people inside. Lastly, there is a decreased exposure to the sun in the wintertime, which means that people are getting less vitamin D. All these factors can indirectly change cholesterol levels.

Moura also pointed out that since climate changes appear to affect cholesterol levels, places with dramatic temperature changes might show an even larger difference between cholesterol levels. Cholesterol changes might be worse in the United States and certain countries in Europe. Moura stated that his next research plan is to see if these cholesterol changes contribute to heart disease by specifically analyzing these numbers in patients with heart diseases. 

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