WASHINGTON -- Years of progress fighting cholesterol might have stalled with the recession, says a huge study from one of the country's largest health laboratories.
Americans' cholesterol levels have significantly improved over the past few decades, because of changes in diet and use of cholesterol-lowering medications. Still, heart disease is the nation's leading killer.
Researchers with health laboratory giant Quest Diagnostics took a closer look at LDL cholesterol, the so-called bad kind. They analyzed a staggering 247 million LDL test results from 105 million adults between 2001 and 2011.
Overall, average LDL levels declined 13 percent during those years. But the downward trend continued only through 2008 – LDL levels held steady after that, the researchers report Friday in the journal PLoS One.
"It's a red flag that something dramatic happened," said Quest's Dr. Harvey Kaufman, who led the study.
The Great Recession began about the same time, Kaufman said. He wonders if higher unemployment and financial stress affected medication use, diet or other factors to explain the findings.
Not so fast, said Dr. Donna Arnett, president of the American Heart Association. This kind of study isn't representative of the entire population and could merely reflect that healthier people skipped cholesterol tests during tight financial times, cautioned Arnett, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
She said more research is needed, noting that government studies haven't yet detected the same trend.
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Say goodbye to the recession haircut -- better known as cutting your own hair to save money. <a href="http://www.cnbc.com/id/46796981" target="_hplink">Sales at hair salons</a> have increased 5.37 percent since 2009, according to research by Sageworks cited by CNBC. <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/on-small-business/better-economy-better-hair/2012/04/04/gIQAic8vvS_story.html" target="_hplink">These hair salon sales include not only haircuts</a>, but also hair coloring, according to <em>The Washington Post</em>.
More Dinners Out
We're now treating ourselves more to a nice meal out. <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/17/business/economy/sales-at-sit-down-restaurants-suggest-a-rising-economy.html" target="_hplink">Sales at sit-down restaurants have risen 8.7 percent</a> over the past year, according to government data cited by <em>The New York Times</em>.
More Plastic Surgery
Notice some of your friends are looking a bit more nipped and tucked lately? That's because plastic surgery procedures often see a boost during better economic times. <a href="http://www.plasticsurgery.org/News-and-Resources/138-Million-Cosmetic-Plastic-Surgery-Procedures-Performed-in-2011.html" target="_hplink">There were 13.8 million plastic surgeries</a> in 2011: up 5 percent since 2010, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
More Zoo Visits
More parents are treating their kids to zoo visits now that the economy is recovering. <a href="http://www.dallasnews.com/news/community-news/oak-cliff/headlines/20120402-dallas-zoo-sets-record-for-attendance-in-a-month-over-145000.ece" target="_hplink">The Dallas Zoo had record attendance</a> in March: 145,441 paying visitors, up 18 percent from the record set the year before, according to the <em>Dallas Morning-News</em>.
More People Quitting
When the economy gets better, workers that are unhappy at their jobs are more likely to quit, since they feel they have a better chance of finding a better job. <a href="http://www.cnbc.com/id/47030350" target="_hplink">More workers now are quitting than getting fired</a>, according to Labor Department data cited by CNBC.
More People Riding The Subway
People that used to walk to save money are taking the subway again. <a href="http://www.ny1.com/content/news_beats/transit/159176/mta--subway-ridership-at-highest-level-since-1950" target="_hplink">More New Yorkers are riding the subway</a> than at any point since 1950, according to NY1.
More Dentist Visits
People that delayed dentist visits to save money are going to see the dentist again -- possibly to find out they have cavities. <a href="http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000076504" target="_hplink">Dentist visits are rising</a> thanks to the economic recovery, according to CNBC.