This is a publication of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute that explains what high cholesterol is about and steps that can be used to lower it. The information is available as an html page or you can download it as a *.pdf file (which is *big* so it may take awhile to download depending on your connection).
If you have had your cholesterol checked and it is elevated, you may be able to get it down into a lower range by following the lifestyle advice in this publication.
Related information is at The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes Website. And here is another link to similar material at The National Women's Health Information Center.
Another option is to keep a diet and exercise log for 2-3 weeks and then let us help you get an appointment with the registered dietitian who can guide you make specific changes to help lower your cholesterol.
You should have your cholesterol rechecked after you've made these changes. But make no mistake: even if it "works" it only does so as long as you stay on the program. If your cholesterol is not sufficently reduced or if you can't maintain the lifestyle changes, medication to lower your cholesterol is recommended. NOTE: you need the Adobe Acrobat Reader to open the *.pdf file. If you don't have Adobe Acrobat Reader on your computer, you can download it here.
Here are some more sites at which useful medical and health-related information can be found:
This is the hospital facility that I use most often.
This is the National Library of Medicine's searchable database of the vast majority (though by no means all) medical journals.
Please be aware that some journals and even some articles in the best journals are better than others. Even the most prestigious journals include misleading or erroneous articles and often this is not discovered until years after they published. One investigator, for example, looked at just one statistical measure, the "false positive rate" in articles published over 2 1/2 years in the mid-1990's. He found that almost half of 63 studies made mistakes in calculating or reporting this measure. [Suojanen JN, New England Journal of Medicine, 1999 Jul 8;341(2):131]
When mistakes are found, retractions are usually not made unless deliberate fraud can be proven and sometimes not unless the authors admit and ask for the retraction. And unless the mistake is found very quickly the journal editors usually don't even consider letters pointing out the error. So these problems are typically sorted out in other articles, sometimes in different journals, that refute, reinterpret, or clarify previously published material.
What this means is that the scientific literature is not sacred scripture. It's simply a way for medical professionals to communicate their ideas and findings. Also, it's an ongoing activity that sometimes takes unexpected twists and turns.
Another thing to keep in mind is that MEDLINE/PUBMED only provides the titles and, usually, abstracts (brief summaries) of articles prepared by their author(s). This is usually not much to go on! Unless you are prepared to look up the full text of medical journal articles and study the details of the experimental and statistical methods used, as well as look up many of the references and read them and their references as well to gain an appreciation of the context of the work, drawing appropriate conclusions can be difficult. It is a challenge even for medical scientific professionals.
Since writing the above I noticed that Mark H. Zweig MD, former assistant chief of the Clinical Chemistry Service at the National Institutes of Health's Clinical Center said something similar. He was quoted in the August 15th, 2004 issue of Ob.Gyn.News as saying that "Rarely is a study conclusive enough or broad enough to establish public policy or direct individual action by itself ... [published medical research reports] are coming out because they are regular periodic communications among investigators ... That's how the rest of the scientific community learns what other scientists have studied and found out. You're just overhearing routine chatter between scientists. ... Most of it is not suitable for public consumption ... it's not iseful news to most people."
The AMA maintains a wealth of material on its website, much of which is reliable and useful.
This is the national organization of board-certified or -eligible Ob/Gyn physicians. It's also a good source of information on many topics concerning womens health.
HEALTH-RELATED MISINFORMATION AND FRAUD
There is, unfortunately, quite a lot of fraud and medical quackery out there as well, especially on the internet. From pills and gadgets and special exercises that are supposed to make your breasts bigger, help you lose weight, improve your eyesight or even cure cancer and other serious illnesses, there are plenty of crooks that are eager to take your money and give you nothing (or worse) in return. Often, such fraud is dignified with the name "alternative" or "complementary" medicine, as if there are reasonable alternatives to medical science or as if all the things that matter in life other medicine are just "complementary" to it. Check out these websites for information about how these scams work and what the fancy scientific-sounding pitches really amount to:
THE NATIONAL COUNCIL AGAINST HEALTH FRAUD is an organization of medical and other allied health professionals, attorneys, consumer protection activists and others devoted to countering deceptive and abusive claims and practices concerning medicine and nutrition.
QUACKWATCH, run by my friend, Dr. Stephen Barrett, makes available a huge variety of material on false and questionable medical and nutritional claims.
HEALTH CARE REALITY CHECK also offers many articles on a variety of health and nutrition-related topics, many written by myself. Like quackwatch, there is a search engine if you are looking for something in particular.