High cholesterol might become top killer in Vietnam

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Industrial lifestyles have increased bad cholesterol levels among Vietnamese people in a development that may push heart disease to replace cancer as the most fatal disease in Vietnam, experts said.

A three-year survey by Vietnam Nutrition Institute released recently recorded excessive levels of bad cholesterol in 29 percent of Vietnamese people, nearly 45 percent of those in the largest cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, 42 percent among middle-aged group, and 63 percent of old people.

The ratio of young people (in the 25-34 age range) suffering high cholesterol has doubled from 18 percent ten years ago, it found.

Experts said in a Tien Phong (Pioneer) report Tuesday that work stress, plus unbalanced diets including excessive drinking and little exercise have made people, especially those in cities, the target of high cholesterol, which is the direct cause of stroke and other heart conditions.

Le Bach Mai, deputy director of the institute, said the condition is worse in urban areas than rural, as people in cities usually dine out, consuming more fat and high-protein dishes than vegetables.

Dining out also involves drinking more beer and alcohol, she said.

"The rate of people having high cholesterol among the dine-out group is double that in the other group."

Nguyen Thanh Hai, head of the examination department at People's Hospital 115, a leading public hospital for emergency cases in HCMC, said the hospital received around 900 people coming for cholesterol test every day.

"Almost any of them have high cholesterol, some as high as more than 350 mg/dl," Hai said, noting that a level lower than 200 mg/dl is considered safe.

Doctors said high levels of bad cholesterol underlie many dangerous diseases, but they are not easy to recognize without a test.

They advise people to adopt a lifestyle with regular exercise, less drinking and smoking, and lower fat diets.

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