Do Nurse Practitioners Have High Enough Standards for Cholesterol Monitoring?

In keeping with American Heart Month, I want to explore how nurse practitioners manage their patient’s heart health.  When reviewing the Framingham Heart Study, a famous research study continuing for more than 50 years, I realized most nurse practitioners don’t have high enough standards for managing their patient’s cholesterol levels.

Managing chronic diseases such as hyperlipidemia can be difficult.  Despite your best efforts as a NP to encourage healthy eating among your patients, a 15-minute appointment slot is typically not enough to encourage lifestyle change.  Yes, medications lowering cholesterol can be effective but most patients continue to have hyperlipidemia even on medications.

The American Heart Association identifies a total cholesterol level of 200 as ‘desirable’.  Levels of 200 to 239 are labeled ‘borderline high’ and levels above 240 are termed ‘high’.  Although these levels are recommended by a renowned institution, they may not be stringent enough to prevent cardiovascular disease among your patients.  As a nurse practitioner, you must adopt more rigorous standards to protect your patient’s health.

Data from the Framingham Heart Study show that there is a level at which essentially no coronary artery disease occurs.  In the Framingham study, almost no coronary artery disease occurred among individuals with a total cholesterol level of less than 150.  In the first 50 years of this study examining thousands of individuals, only five people with cholesterol levels of less than 150 developed coronary artery disease.

Only about five percent of the population has a true genetic tendency toward heart disease.  This means that if you as a nurse practitioner can educate your patients about smoking cessation, healthy eating and encourage total cholesterol levels of less than 150 you can truly prevent cardiovascular disease among your patients.  Cool, huh?

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More good news?  It’s not too late for your patients already suffering from coronary artery disease.  Some studies have shown that heart disease can be reversed with a strict diet.  82 percent of individuals reverting to a vegetarian diet (low in cholesterol and fat) had measurable reversal of coronary artery blockages.

Since February is heart month, let’s take responsibility as nurse practitioners to inform our patients about decreased cardiovascular risk associated with a chlesterol level of less than 150.  If our patient’s commit to keeping their cholesterol levels less than 150 they can avoid coronary artery disease and perhaps reverse the damage that has already been done to their hearts.  Rise above the typical recommended cholesterol guidelines and demand better from you and your patients.  Then, you will truly make a difference.


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4 thoughts on “Do Nurse Practitioners Have High Enough Standards for Cholesterol Monitoring?”

  1. Hi. This is a random question but is it possible to work steady hours being an er np?. For example 9 to 5. Thank you.

  2. Hi Joshua,

    Not a random question at all!  I would say that it would be very very rare to find an ER NP position with standard hours.  Most ER nurse practitioner positions require nights, weekends and holidays.  In my hospital I work 10am to 6pm half of my shifts and 6pm to 2am the other half.  This includes about three weekend shifts each month.  I have also seen 12 hour shifts in various formats.  For example, 6am to 6pm, 7am to 7pm, 1pm to 1am, 11am to 11pm.  I can’t say for sure if a 9am to 5pm ER NP position exists but if you are looking for standard hours you will be unlikely to find them.  The benefit of 12 hour shifts would be that usually it means a three-day work week.

    On the upside, I find my schedule very flexible as far as taking vacations!

  3. Thanks for your answer! I want to be an np but I’m not sure if emergency is for me. The 12 hour shifts don’t sound like a bad idea. Have you ever done 12 hour shifts? If so how was your experience? Sorry for all the questions, I would just like to know what I’m getting into.

  4. I actually loved working 12 hour shifts.  If you work 12 hour shifts, 3 days/ week is considered full-time.  This gives incredible schedule flexibility.  You are very tired after such a long day but it really isn’t that bad.

    The only reason I no longer work 12 hour shifts is that I don’t like the overnight shift (6pm to 6am). It is very difficult to switch back from days to nights for me.  Others don’t seem to mind though.  

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