Docs: Cholesterol Not the Heart Disease Antidote

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For years, cholesterol numbers have been used to determine a person's risk of heart disease.

Doctors typically say the lower the number, the lower the risk. However, a new study suggests otherwise.

As a former NCAA Division 1 athlete, Carmela McMullen stayed healthy and active.

Her cholesterol number was below 200, which is a good number. But at the age of 40, McMullen had a heart attack.

"I was having some slight symptoms and I didn't even recognize what that was about," she recalled.

Dr. Harlan Krumholz of the Yale University Medical School explained that, "People with a lower cholesterol level have a lower risk of heart disease, but it's not zero."

Everybody has cholesterol. It lines every cell in the body.

Cholesterol numbers measure the cholesterol in a person's blood, but not the bad cholesterol that can be building up plaque in the arteries.

Studies show that 50 percent of people who have heart attacks have normal cholesterol levels.

But even good cholesterol doesn't prevent plaque build up. High blood pressure, diabetes, smoking and obesity all can play a role.

Doctors suggest people start making changes to help their heart, not to lower their cholesterol.

"I've changed a lot of things in my life. It's a new me. I feel great," McMullen exclaimed.

A CT scan can reveal if plaque is building up around your heart and calcium tests are proving to be accurate when it comes to determining a person's risk for having a heart attack.

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