Article Text

  1. E. G. Grimsrud
  1. University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA


Purpose of Study Polson, Montana, like most communities in the US, has a high incidence of cardiovascular disease. Not surprisingly, the prevalence of cardiovascular disease risk factors, including hyperlipidemia, is also high in the community. It was noted that hyperlipidemic patients are often treated with medication but that the underlying cause of their illness is not always addressed. A community health project was designed to educate the people of Polson regarding strategies to improve cholesterol through diet and exercise.

Methods A review of the literature was conducted using MEDLINE to investigate dietary approaches to improving cholesterol. This search identified soluble fiber and plant sterols as well as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids as having potential cholesterol-lowing effects. Conversely, saturated fats and trans-fats were identified as having harmful effects on cholesterol. A two-pronged approach was implemented to relay these findings to the community. First, individual consultations were used to assess patients' current diet and exercise habits and to suggest healthier alternatives when appropriate. In addition, the larger community was targeted with an educational article that appeared in the local newspaper.

Summary The ultimate goal of this project was to encourage patients to take a proactive role in improving their cholesterol by arming them with helpful dietary information and impressing on them the importance of diet and exercise on cardiovascular health. Patients were individually counseled regarding current diet and lifestyle habits and were encouraged to make adjustments in order to improve their cholesterol. A health education article, entitled “Prescription for Healthy Cholesterol: Diet & Exercise,” communicated similar information to the larger community in the local newspaper.

Conclusions Given the current epidemic of cardiovascular disease, it is imperative that Americans make healthier decisions regarding diet and exercise. This is a daunting challenge as long-lived habits are hard to change. Health care providers have an opportunity to help patients in this struggle through dietary and lifestyle education.

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