Why do cholesterol levels matter?
Cholesterol is a naturally-occurring type of fat present in the blood and necessary for the cells. The body makes all the cholesterol that it needs to function properly, but we also get it from the food we eat. Cholesterol becomes a problem when we eat too much processed, refined food and simple sugars. Whole, dietary cholesterol probably has a much smaller impact. The abnormal accumulation of unhealthy forms of cholesterol can build up in the arteries (known as atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries). This build-up can impede proper blood flow, leading to blood clots and inflammation. This is where many of the heart and blood flow problems we see today get started and can result in heart attacks and strokes.
No, not all cholesterol is harmful. The body needs it for proper function and it is particularly important to the brain. For the past few decades, Americans were told to eat less cholesterol. We were taught that there are two types of cholesterol- LDL is the “bad” cholesterol and can raise the risk of heart disease and stroke. HDL is the “good” cholesterol and is linked to lower risk of heart disease and stroke. Recent studies, however, have shown that cholesterol is not nearly as dangerous as previously thought.
The New York Times recently ran an article on statins and cholesterol entitled “The Government’s Bad Diet Advice” in which they assert, “For two generations, Americans ate fewer eggs and other animal products because policy makers told them that fat and cholesterol were bad for their health. Now both dogmas have been debunked in quick succession. …cutting fat and cholesterol, as Americans have conscientiously done, may have even worsened our health. In clearing our plates of meat and eggs (fat and protein), we ate more grains, pasta and starchy vegetables (carbohydrates). Over the past 50 years, we cut fat intake by 25 percent and increased carbohydrates by more than 30 percent, according to a new analysis of government data. Yet recent science has increasingly shown that a high-carb diet rich in sugar and refined grains increases the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease — much more so than a diet high in fat and cholesterol.”
The whole topic of cholesterol metabolism is very complicated as there are numerous different forms in our blood stream. Simply measuring only total cholesterol, DDL and LDL is often insufficient information since this doesn’t tell you anything about the size or concentration of the cholesterol in each LDL particle, how sticky it may be or if the cholesterol has become oxidized, which can be very problematic. We take the time with each patient to evaluate all of these factors and more, allowing us to treat each patient more effectively.
Cholesterol should not be thought of as a ‘bad guy’. It is extremely important for life, as it plays a vital role in forming the cell membrane of every cell in the body, helps us form vitamin D and all of our sex hormones, including estrogen, progesterone and testosterone and all of our adrenal hormones, keeping keep us healthy.
- Food intake- Eating too much sugar, saturated fat, and trans fat.
- Obesity- associated with increasing harmful cholesterol.
- Sedentary lifestyle- Not getting enough exercise may lower HDL
- Family history- Those with a family history of high cholesterol have a higher risk
Traditionally, high cholesterol is treated with statins– a prescription drug which lowers cholesterol. Statins are prescribed to prevent a cardiac event and are focused solely on lowering cholesterol- which they do well. While statins may lower a lab value, they may not improve the quality of health. Many studies indicate that patients fail to live any longer, especially in those who have never had a heart attack. In fact, only 50% of people who have heart attacks actually have high cholesterol.
There is mounting evidence that statins are not nearly as safe or effective as once thought and while they do lower cholesterol, they fail to substantially improve cardiovascular health. Statins have recently been linked to increasing risk of cancer, myopathy (muscle breakdown), depression, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and more. Statins also lower the vitally important enzyme known as CoQ10, which is essential to protect our heart, brain, immune system, cellular energy and oxygen utilization.
Cholesterol is extremely important to cellular function and it is now believed that low cholesterol is just as, or even more, problematic than high cholesterol. We need to be extremely careful when lowering our cholesterol levels, as this can have an adverse effect on the brain and many other systems of the body.
At the Magaziner Center, we believe in balancing cholesterol levels naturally. We do not treat only the lab value- we treat the whole person. There is no “one-size-fits-all” treatment for high cholesterol and cardiovascular health. We take the time to look at each patient’s specific contributing factors, including lifestyle, diet, nutritional factors, antioxidant status, stress level, family history and more. With our unique and extremely thorough blood and urine testing, we are able to create a plan and course of treatment specific to each individual. We only utilize methods in harmony with the body such as targeted diet, exercise, supplements and more. Everyone is different- each of us has a unique biochemistry. We find what will get the best results with each patient, based on their unique makeup and contributing factors and needs. Only by finding the cause of the problem and can it be treated properly.
Our goal is not necessarily to simply lower cholesterol. Our goal is get our patients to optimal cardiovascular health, which will result in properly balanced cholesterol levels.
Why settle for a lifetime regimen of medication, some with side effects worse than the original condition? There are options. There is help- and you’ve just found it.