Every week, we’re bringing you a roundup of the latest health and wellness news to hit the wire. This week, we look at new cholesterol guidelines to prevent heart disease, how a meat tax could force us into better health, and the nutrition 411 on that winter squash at your holiday table.
New guidelines for managing cholesterol
The American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology recently released new guidelines to better fight the war on heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.
The advice outlined on ABC News calls for more aggressive treatment with cholesterol-lowering statin drugs at the highest dose tolerated to get counts of bad low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol—which causes heart attacks and strokes—down to less than 100 milligrams per deciliter or 70 milligrams per deciliter for those with risk factors.
Cholesterol, a fat found in blood and cells, isn’t all bad. The body needs it to make hormones, vitamin D and digestive fluids, and to help organs function properly.
However, if you have a high level of LDL, it can build up in arteries, forming plaque, which can block the flow of oxygen-carrying blood to major organs, including the heart.
How do you know whether you need to lower your cholesterol with a statin? Talk to your doctor about these three tests:
- A non-fasting blood test to measure LDL cholesterol
- Coronary artery calcium score
- Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease (ASCVD) Risk Estimator, which is used to calculate the 10-year future risk of a heart attack
Based on these tests, your doctor can decide whether a statin is right for you. And keep in mind that exercise, a healthy diet and not smoking can prevent 80 percent of heart disease.
Should we tax bacon out of our diets?
Speaking of cholesterol, a study reported by CNN suggests that a global red meat tax could save 220,000 lives and cut health-care costs by $41 billion a year, given the increased risk of heart disease, cancer stroke and diabetes linked with meat consumption.
A team of researchers led by Marco Springmann, Ph.D., from the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford argues that a tax would work two ways: both to reduce how much meat we’re eating as consumer prices go up, and to offset health-care costs related to their consumption, saving $20 billion and 53,000 lives in the U.S. alone each year.
Researchers are proposing a 79 percent tax by the U.K. government on processed meats such as bacon and sausages that were classified as carcinogenic by the World Health Organization three years ago, and a 14 percent tax on unprocessed meats such as steak.
Here in the U.S., researchers conclude that the taxes should be 163 percent and 34 percent, respectively, because of our “inefficient health-care system that wastes a lot of money.” Ouch.
Already a handful of U.S. cities, including Chicago, Philadelphia and Oakland, California, have enacted a sugary drink tax to deter people from swilling soda. But meat would definitely be more of an uphill battle. Veggie burger, anyone?
The nutritional lowdown on pumpkin and other squash
If you’re thinking about bringing a winter squash dish to Thanksgiving dinner, here’s the rundown on the nutrition in these seasonal beauties from The Washington Post.
- All winter squash contain vitamins A and C and fiber. However, butternut, acorn and pumpkin squash are more calorically similar to a starch, while spaghetti squash and kabocha are closer to a vegetable. A cup of butternut squash, for instance, has 80 calories (before the brown sugar) compared with spaghetti’s 30.
- If you’re watching calorie or carb counts, it’s best to treat squash as a starch and add several servings of greens, carrots, Brussels sprouts and other non-starchy vegetables to your plate.
- Lastly, here’s a fun fact: Did you know that a squash is actually a fruit rather than a vegetable? Yep, it’s true because these gourds produce seeds.
Click through to find out more about each variety as well as the best way to cook them.
Photo credit: Natalie Rhea Riggs, Unsplash