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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the June 12, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Web Review: CholesterolClinic.com

"My doctor told me that my LDL cholesterol

was high at 190 even after trying a low fat diet for three months.

He wants me to take statin medication for it. I am only 46 (male)

and have no symptoms, although my blood pressure was a little high.

I am not sure I want to take medication. Should I?"

This question is from a case study on CholesterolClinic.com, the website

of Dr. Rolando deGoma, a cardiologist with offices at 30 Meadow Lane

in Pennington. deGoma’s website is all about cholesterol, with information

for laymen and physicians. His answer to the question indicates why

this site’s subject is one no health-conscious person can ignore.

"The old adage `an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’

applies to the treatment of the cholesterol problem. Coronary heart

disease begins early in life and progresses quietly without any symptoms.

The first and only symptom is sudden death in one of four patients,"

he writes.

Enough to make anyone sit up and take notice. deGoma goes on to quote

the West of Scotland Coronary Prevention Study, which shows that a

reduction in the 46 year-old’s level of LDL (bad) cholesterol should

reduce his chance of cardiac death by 28 percent, and any need for

bypass surgery or angioplasty by 37 percent.

His advice: get on the medication, and be conscientious about taking

it.

Access to this section of CholesterolClinic.com, and to every other

section for laymen, is blessedly free of any need to register. It

did my heart good to page through without once having to type in my

zip code or think up and double enter a password.

The site has quizzes to help individuals assess their risk for heart

disease and to figure out if their cholesterol level is acceptable.

It has extensive information on planning meals around heart-healthy

guidelines, information on exercise, and a calendar on which those

seeking to improve their health can record amount and type of exercise,

daily helpings of vegetables, weight, and even the number of times

they cheated on their diets.

CholesterolClinic.com guides users through two diets, the heart healthy

diet or the change lifestyle diet. The latter contains less fat and

cholesterol. Many websites have similar features. Nearly all require

registration, many require a monthly fee for individualized diet planning,

and virtually all are more difficult to use. With CholesterolClinic,

users enter their height, weight, gender, and age range, and recommendations

appear, allowing users to choose from a number of foods for each meal.

Choices made, a click pulls up an instant analysis of the meal, including

amount of saturated fat, cholesterol, total fat, total calories, and

sodium for each item selected, and for the meal as a whole.

Impressive. Also, of course, a little daunting. The totals show just

how quickly those little pats of butter, modest slices of cake, and

deli sandwiches add up to way too much fat and too many calories.

For those who have overindulged for a decade or two and need to do

something about their cholesterol there is a "Drug Info" section.

It gives instructions, efficacy, side effects, clinical trial, and

discount information on popular cholesterol-lowering drugs. The information

on each comes directly from the drug’s manufacturer, providing a clue

as to how this free, comprehensive, easy-to-use website is funded.

Disclaimers state that the drug information is intended for the eyes

of physicians, and only physicians, but laymen easily can access it

— again, no registration or password required. Of interest to

those weighing drug options are the results of clinical trials, how

well the drugs are tolerated, and whether there are any contraindications.

The only negative about the site is that the lifestyle calendar is

not interactive. Instead of storing the information, allowing for

a cumulative record, CholesterolClinic.com suggests that users

print out a calendar each month and carry it around with them.

Perhaps that is not such a negative after all. Unless one is wired

24/7, it is easier for most to accurately record French fry intake

and nibbles of office-celebration cake on the spot than to type it

all in at the end of the day.

— Kathleen McGinn Spring


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