Mail notifications may motivate patients to lower cholesterol

A new study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that when doctors sent mail to patients notifying them that their cholesterol levels are high, the subjects were more likely to treat their condition with cholesterol-lowering medications than those who did not receive a notice.

The research, which was performed by scientists at Northwestern Medicine, included 29 physicians and 435 patients. Utilizing electronic health records (EHR), the 14 doctors in the test group were automatically notified about at-risk subjects with high cholesterol levels. The physicians then mailed the patients risk assessments, which urged them to seek help from a healthcare provider.

The patients in the test group who received the notifications were two times more likely than the control group to get a prescription for their cholesterol levels. Within 18 months, nearly 22 percent of the subjects had lowered their cholesterol as opposed to the 16.1 percent in the control group.

Work to do
While the mailed notifications did seem to have some effect on whether patients looked for treatment options, the researchers noted that improvement still needs to be made, and future studies may seek to find the effect that multiple risk-assessment notifications have.

“Many patients who had increased cardiovascular risk and got the risk message sent to them still did not get their cholesterol lowered,” said research author Stephen Persell, M.D., assistant professor of general internal medicine and geriatrics at Feinberg. “Future studies can examine if repeated exposure to these messages leads to bigger changes over time.”

High cholesterol facts
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), cholesterol, which is a wax-like fatty substance, can build up in the arteries and reduce blood flow, which subsequently can result in a heart attack.

The source notes that some causes of high cholesterol include consuming saturated fats, being overweight and not getting enough physical activity. Cholesterol is also hereditary, so people with immediate family members who have high levels may also have the same problem. Age also influences cholesterol levels, and the older people get the more likely they are to have unhealthy readings.

In order to keep cholesterol under control, the Mayo Clinic recommends people eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Trans fats should be avoided completely and only 7 percent of peoples’ daily caloric intake should come from saturated fats.

According to the University of Maryland, omega-3 fatty acids, which people can get from chia seeds, hemp seeds or an Omegakrill supplement from Dr. Newton’s Naturals, have also shown to be effective in lowering cholesterol.


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