Seven-year long study analyzed data from 2.8 million people.
By Deepak Chitnis
WASHINGTON, DC: A medical investigation, led by Johns Hopkins cardiologist Dr. Parag Joshi, has found that human cholesterol levels fluctuate drastically from season to season, with the cold, winter months being especially conducive to high levels of cholesterol.
The study was presented this week at the American College of Cardiology’s 63rd Annual Scientific Session, and represents the most definitive link thus far between cholesterol level changes and the seasons of the year.
The study examined data from 2.8 million Americans, who had regular cholesterol level checks between 2006 and 2013, and found that LDL cholesterol – Low-Density Lipoprotein, which is the bad kind, unlike High-Density Lipoprotein, which is actually quite good for you – levels increased 3.5% for men and 1.7% for women during the cold season.
Joshi said that markers in the blood change during the winter, which contribute to heart disease, and compound the effects caused by eating more during the holidays and exercising less due to the cold.
“In the summer, we tend to get outside, we are more active and have healthier behaviors overall,” said Joshi, in a statement. “In the colder months, we tend to crawl into our caves […] So you have a lipid signature of higher risk, but it’s probably driven by a lot of behaviors that occur with the changing seasons.”
The study meshes with one introduced last month, at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference, which said that colder weather led to a noticeable uptick in stroke frequency. For every five degree Fahrenheit that the temperature dropped, hospitalization due to stroke increased by about 6%.
The solution? Keep exercising with the same intensity year-round, and watch out for those Thanksgiving turkey dinners and Christmas hams.
Joshi is a Clinical Research Fellow at the Johns Hopkins Heart and Vascular Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. He earned his undergraduate degree from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, and his medical degree from the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center. He completed his residency work at the Emory University School of Medicine, and is board-certified in internal medicine. His clinical interests lie in “general cardiology,” with research interests in “Prevention, Atherosclerosis Imaging.”