Nearly 610,000 people in America die from heart disease every year. That is 1 in 4 deaths. And, the leading type of heart disease (there are many) is Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). This is the type of disease that is caused by plaque build-up in a person’s arteries. The culprit was considered to be high cholesterol, and statins were considered the drug of choice for treatment.
Physicians even called for giving statins to people who did not show signs or symptoms stating that the broader use of statins will cut our rates of heart disease substantially. Some even suggested prescribing statins to children.
But, things that appear to be an easy fix, rarely are.
Statins have many problematic side effects for some people (the nervous system is especially hard hit).
So, imagine that you now hear that cholesterol may not be the demon that it was purported to be. There are several medical studies worldwide that clearly suggest that higher cholesterol levels in the body actually increase both longevity and guards against diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. What?
It is probably obvious why the pharmaceutical industry is pushing for practically everyone on the planet to “lower their cholesterol”? Profit motive. But, as a scientist – I want you to know that many of these treatments are well-intentioned. But, flawed medical studies were accepted and never fully analyzed for their validity.
So, how did we get this so wrong?!
Thankfully, medical science marches on. And, it is becoming quite apparent that the issue is less about the cholesterol – but, about the inflammation that we have in our body. I wrote on this earlier this month – and, as I look through these studies, it is becoming so much clearer about the impact of this chronic inflammation (due to our poor diets, stress, and overall habits).
So, let’s look at cholesterol’s role in our body.
- First, our bodies need cholesterol! It is so important that our bodies synthesize it.
- Cholesterol makes up a large portion of our brain (so, consider being a ‘fat head’ a good thing), our nerves and our cells.
- Cholesterol is even a necessary component that your body uses to make hormones (Vitamin D, estrogen, testosterone).
- It even serves as a needed component of our immune system.
So, what does cholesterol do – here is a quick tutorial…
If your body feels that you have insufficient cholesterol to maintain the health of you cells – the body (generally, the liver) is requested to produce new cholesterol, which it bundles into packages called ‘LDL’ and sends the LDL through the bloodstream where cells can access it. Excess LDLs are then collected by your HDL and taken back to the liver where they are either reused – or, are made into bile acids to aid in digestion.
Pretty cool, huh? So, if cholesterol is so important – why is it seemingly an issue for our arteries. The answer is less about our cholesterol levels.
Let’s look at LDL in a bit more detail. There are actually 7 different sizes of LDL – but, let’s concentrate on LDL ‘A’ vs. LDL ‘B’.
LDL ‘A’ is the big fluffy kind and it is not problem in your body – this is the type your body prefers to use. LDL ‘B’ on the other hand, it small and compact – it is an oxidized form of the substance. And, what causes the oxidation?
Drum roll please – inflammation!
And, why do statins work for many people? They limit inflammation!!!
You know what else inflammation does? It can cause your blood vessels to become injured on a microscopic levels. And, your body uses LDL (in whatever form) to basically make a ‘biological band-aid’ over the injured area until the problem area is healed. So, this plaque build-up, if done in small doses, is quite normal.
What is NOT normal? Perpetuating this continuous inflammation on your body – which never lets up.
I’ve mentioned that you can measure your inflammation by looking at your homocysteine and your hs – CRP (C-Reactive Protein). Your doctor can order these tests for you. Your physician can even check whether you have LDL ‘A’ or LDL ‘B’.
If you have significant internal inflammation, plaque will be deposited as a biological band-aid regardless of your cholesterol level. On the other hand, if you don’t have excessive inflammation, cholesterol just keeps circulating without getting deposited on the artery linings.
Therefore, it is more important to control inflammation rather than using potentially harmful drugs to lower your cholesterol.
Controlling your inflammation is easy – reduce stress in your life (try deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga), eat a ‘real food’ diet’ with plenty of anti-oxidant rich vegetables, good protein, and healthy fats, don’t smoke, and limit alcohol.