Seasonal Cholesterol Shifts

Life Events

Cholesterol has become a dirty word over the years. We’ve all heard (or should have heard by now) to keep our levels in check for a healthy life. And since cholesterol’s been linked to heart conditions, high blood pressure, and an increased likelihood of plenty of other health risks, it’s good advice!

But now, a new study shows that cholesterol levels may change with the seasons. That means good warm-weather behavior may help undo some cholesterol upswings from wintertime habits.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, analyzed the lipid trends of some 2.8 million American adults who underwent cholesterol testing between 2006 and 2013. To look at seasonality, they also categorized patients by when they were evaluated.

The data confirmed what other studies had long suspected; there is a significant seasonal variation in cholesterol levels. For both men and women, overall cholesterol levels (including the bad cholesterol) were higher during winter months.

Why do cholesterol levels shift by season?

While it’s not true across the board, most people’s lifestyles change a lot between hot and cold months.

"In the summer, we tend to get outside, we are more active and have healthier behaviors overall," said Parag Joshi, lead investigator of the study and a cardiology fellow at Johns Hopkins Hospital. "In the colder months, we tend to crawl into our caves, eat [fat-laden] comfort foods and get less exercise.”

Studies have shown healthier diets and exercise positively affect cholesterol levels. So, if our diets, exercise habits, stress, and overall disposition change between the seasons, it makes sense that cholesterol levels would vary too.

What can we do?

To help offset our natural lull and rise in cholesterol in winter time, try some minimal lifestyle changes:

  • Make winter habits more like summer ones.
  • Take a close look at your diet in winter.
  • Cut down your time on the couch.

And when spring and summer come along, foster the natural shift in cholesterol levels:

  • Walk to nearby errands instead of driving.
  • Eat more seasonal vegetables.
  • Get more sunlight.

It's important to recognize that gradual lifestyle changes can instigate the health improvements that matter to so many of us.

Cholesterol and other health conditions can directly affect your Life insurance policy rates and day-to-day medical expenses. But this is one thing that’s in your control. So understand your cholesterol triggers, take a look at your seasonal habits, and make some small changes to reduce a range of risks and possibly change medical outcomes.

Life insurance, annuities and accidental death insurance issued by Farmers New World Life Insurance Company, 3003 77th Ave. SE, Mercer Island, WA 98040.

IC-0514-A     6/14