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Cholesterol Not All Bad for Seniors, Researchers Say

Seniors exercising.
Inflammation in some areas, such as near the heart, is not good, but for building muscles it may be beneficial, and cholesterol appears to aid in this process.

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October 11, 2011

A study finds that people with higher cholesterol intake also had the highest muscle strength gain, a positive development for seniors who are staying active. But even if your senior loved ones are reaping the benefits of regular exercise, encourage them to follow their doctor’s orders on nutrition and medications, and get assistance at home if needed.

Q. My 78-year-old father has had high cholesterol for years. He is under a doctor’s treatment but still has trouble staying on a proper diet, especially since Mom died. I’m very concerned. What can I do to help?

According to a recent study from Texas A&M University, there might be some benefits to higher cholesterol.

Researchers found that there was a significant association of dietary cholesterol and change in strength. In general, those with higher cholesterol intake also had the highest muscle strength gain. Cholesterol circulating in the blood also appeared to have contributed to greater muscle gain in the participants.

“One possible explanation is through cholesterol’s important role in the inflammation process,” noted lead investigator Steven Riechman, assistant professor of health and kinesiology. “As you exercise, your muscles can become sore because they are rebuilding muscle mass. More cholesterol may result in a more robust inflammatory response. We know that inflammation in some areas, such as near the heart, is not good, but for building muscles it may be beneficial, and cholesterol appears to aid in this process.”

The team studied 55 men and women, ages 60-69, who were healthy non-smokers and were able to perform exercise testing and training.

Certainly don’t encourage your father to give up cholesterol medication, though. Researchers agree that the issue requires more study. In the meantime, help ensure that he eats a proper diet by asking him to consult with his doctor. The doctor may, in turn, refer him to a nutritionist. Proper food selection goes a long way toward helping to manage cholesterol in many seniors.

Perhaps your father needs extra help at home. If so, consider suggesting that he hire a non-medical companion. The local Home Instead Senior Care® office employs CAREGiversSM who can go into the homes of seniors to help with a variety of tasks including companionship, meal preparation, light housekeeping and errands. A companion might be just what your dad needs to stay on track.

*Source: Texas A&M University “Surprise – Cholesterol May Actually Pose Benefits, Study Shows.” Press release online at http://tamunews.tamu.edu/archives/article.php?articleid=5549&month=1&year=2008.

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