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Health District Pushes Cholesterol Tests

Keeping a close eye on cholesterol is not just for those 65 and older as many people think, says Elaine Abrams, a nurse from Visiting Nursing Hospice in Wilton. "Everyone over 18 should have cholesterol checked every five years," Abrams said at a cholesterol program held last week at the Weston Senior Center for National Cholesterol Education Month.

She stressed the importance of knowing your numbers for good cholesterol, known as HDL (think "H" for healthy), and the kind that can put you at risk of heart disease, also known as LDL (think "L" for lousy).

The Westport Weston Health District will offer cholesterol screenings from 8 to 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 18, and Tuesday Sept. 28, at 180 Bayberry Lane in Westport for a $25 fee.

Though your cholesterol levels may be partially due to genetics, other factors can raise your risk. Diets high in cholesterol-filled food like meat, eggs and dairy; smoking; a sedentary lifestyle; and heavy drinking can all hurt your cholesterol levels. Drinking alcohol in moderation, she says however, can protect your heart. One 4-ounce glass for women and two for men is beneficial, but anything more can be negative, she said.

"Clearly nutrition and diet play a very strong role in both the development ... as well as prevention of heart disease," said Abrams. "Getting our kids to eat healthy early in life is the best and most ideal thing."

For the cholesterol conscious, Abrams recommends foods rich in cardio-protective omega-3 fatty acids such as nuts and fish and vegetables high in fiber such as sweet potatoes, carrots, peas and broccoli. And everyone should get up and move, for at least 30 minutes, almost every day. "You've just gotta get the sneakers on, and you gotta move," she said.

To make an appointment for a cholesterol test with the Westport Weston Health District, call nurse Monica Wheeler at 203-227-9571, Ext. 242. The health district office can be reached Monday through Friday at 203-227-9571.

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