Eating healthy this holiday season? Doctors warn of ‘silent killer’ — cholesterol

The holiday season is in full swing, and with many in the D.C. area preparing to indulge in Christmas feasts, doctors want you to know you can have it both ways when it comes to health — it’s possible to both indulge and stay healthy with festive food and drinks.

“It’s OK to indulge in some of the holiday-based food … in moderation,” said Dr. Julie Chen, an internal medicine physician with Kaiser Permanente in Maryland.

Part of emphasizing that moderation has to do with warning people of what Chen calls a “silent killer”: high cholesterol.

“Cholesterol can build up to dangerous levels, without the person having any symptoms,” Chen told WTOP.

Simply put, cholesterol is a fatlike substance that’s found in cells of the body. It’s not a bad thing, but too much can be fatal.

“Once it’s almost too late, the manifestation of high cholesterol could be as devastating as a heart attack or a stroke,” Chen explained.

A new study from the Jama Cardiology journal found that four in 10 American adults with high cholesterol don’t even know they have the condition.

Chen said a lot of factors, like not enough access to preventive care and genetics, can contribute to this.

But diet also plays a role, especially when it comes to rich and processed foods usually consumed around this time of year.

“Try to be moderate in terms of eating the rich foods we tend to eat during the holiday season,” Chen said, explaining that low-fat dairy, healthy fats from fish and using other natural ingredients when baking can be good alternatives to processed sugars that are so tempting to consume.

She said to avoid trans fats, and even heavily-processed meats.

“Of course, you need to also balance your plate with plenty of fruits and vegetables,” she added.

Her overall message to the community is that you can still have fun and imbibe in tradition as long as you do it responsibly.

Matt Kaufax

If there's an off-the-beaten-path type of attraction, person, or phenomenon in the DC area that you think more people should know about, Matt is your guy. As the features reporter for WTOP, he's always on the hunt for stories that provide a unique local flavor—a slice of life if you will.

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