United States Department of Veterans Affairs
 Health Care
VA Helps Women Veterans in Battle Against High Cholesterol
Nurse draws blood from patient
Cynthia McCorvey, RN, draws a blood sample from U.S. Air Force veteran Jan Diebold to determine her cholesterol levels at the VA’s Women’s Comprehensive Care Clinic in Albuquerque.

New Mexico’s women Veterans keep their cholesterol levels under control by taking advantage of a full range of services offered through the Women’s Comprehensive Care Clinic at the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center in Albuquerque.

At the Albuquerque center, all new patients are screened for cholesterol levels.

Women Veterans Program Manager Carole Donsbach, RN, MPH, notes that patients identified as having high cholesterol are treated with cholesterol-reducing medication and are monitored to see if the medication works.

They are counseled on factors that help reduce cholesterol such has the VA exercise program called MOVE.

They also consult with a nutritionist to review healthy eating habits that can lead to lowering cholesterol levels.

As Donsbach points out, “It is a combination of medication, exercise and nutrition and monitoring.

“Proper diet and exercise are critical to healthy cholesterol levels.

“Engaging in physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy foods, and whole grains can help lower cholesterol levels,” Donsbach adds.

VA Online Program Helps Track Cholesterol

If your level is especially high, your doctor might prescribe medication to help lower it. You can keep track of your cholesterol levels with a free, online program at www.myhealth.va.gov that is designed to educate Veterans about health care topics.

The services are also available at 11 clinics across the state.

The program offers gender-specific, comprehensive primary care, gynecology, cancer screening, preventive care, and behavioral health care in an environment emphasizing dignity and privacy.

About one out of every six Americans has high blood cholesterol, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This increases the risk of heart disease, which is the number-one killer of women in the United States.

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that the human body needs. However, elevated amounts in the blood can lead to a buildup on artery walls, resulting in a heart attack or stroke.

There are two types of cholesterol. HDL (good) cholesterol tends to be higher in women because it is associated with the female sex hormone estrogen. LDL (bad) cholesterol can increase with age and weight and is found in foods with saturated and trans fats.

“The first step in managing your cholesterol is to know your cholesterol level,” said Megan Babcock, M.D., an internist who serves as WCCC’s Medical Director. “Your doctor can do a simple blood test that will show the amount of cholesterol in your blood.”

Babcock emphasized the importance of controlling cholesterol as an essential part of preventive medical care.

Women are now the fastest growing subgroup of U.S. Veterans. The number of women Veterans is expected to increase dramatically in the next 10 years and VA health care is in high demand by the women Veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Women Veterans served and they deserve the best quality care. The Department of Veterans Affairs specializes in the health care needs of women Veterans and is committed to meeting these needs.