Olympic gold medalists Christopher Dean and Mark Spitz have joined the Go for the Goal awareness initiative designed to focus public attention on the dangers of high cholesterol as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
According to a recent international survey of 7,000 people, more than 80 per cent do not know what their cholesterol levels are, and 76 per cent do not know what a desirable cholesterol level for healthy adults should be. Dean and Spitz are seeking to increase public awareness by encouraging people to learn their cholesterol numbers, set a cholesterol goal, and work with their doctors to achieve it.
The Go for the Goal initiative has been set up by pharmaceutical group Pfizer with the support of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Pfizer makes the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor.
During a routine physical, Christopher Dean, of the UK Olympic Gold Medal skating duo Torvill and Dean, learned that he had high cholesterol. In addition, he also has a family history of cardiovascular disease, which is a major factor in compounding his overall risk. With his doctor's guidance and regular exercise, Dean lowered and currently maintains his cholesterol at a healthy level.
"As an athlete, learning that I had high cholesterol was very disconcerting, especially with heart disease in my family," said Dean. "Now I am more vigilant than ever about maintaining my cholesterol goal through diet, exercise, and routine visits with my doctor."
Olympic swimmer Mark Spitz, who holds the record for the most gold medals won in a single Olympic Games, was diagnosed seven years ago with cholesterol levels above 300 mg/dL (7.75 mmol/l) - a number well above the recommended level of 190 mg/dL (5.0mmol/L). Since that time, he has worked with his physician to lower his cholesterol dramatically through exercise and by taking Lipitor.
"I've been an athlete all my life and have always maintained a healthy, active lifestyle through exercise and a balanced diet," said Spitz. "I was shocked when I was diagnosed with high cholesterol because I had no symptoms at all."
Cardiovascular disease, including coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke, is responsible for approximately 17 million deaths worldwide each year. By 2020, CHD alone will claim 11.1 million lives annually.
According to European medical guidelines, in addition to high levels of LDL (or 'bad' cholesterol), healthy individuals may be at risk for developing CHD because of other health and lifestyle factors, including low levels of HDL ('good' cholesterol), raised triglycerides, high blood pressure, diabetes, family history of early heart disease, physical inactivity, obesity, smoking, and a diet high in saturated fat, cholesterol and calories.
The Pfizer/IOC Medical Commission partnership aims to eliminate physical inactivity by enhancing the body, will and mind of athletes and the public alike through further scientific study of movement, exercise and sport. This research is crucial to improving human movement, providing preventative care, and better managing disease states for people who seek to live a healthy lifestyle, Pfizer said.