When people are asked to name a risk factor for heart disease, what do you think is the first thing that usually comes to mind? I’ll bet “high cholesterol” would be one of the top responses. But is this great concern truly necessary? Is it possible that there may be a type of “cholesterol hysteria” gripping us? I think so. Here are some interesting facts that often go overlooked:
Point #1 Cholesterol is an essential fatty substance that you cannot do without. It is the raw material for your steroid hormones like testosterone and cortisol, it is required for the synthesis of Vit D in the skin, and it is necessary for proper maintenance of the brain. This is just for starters. Do you really want to cut yourself short on this critical substance?
Point #2 Most of the cholesterol you need is manufactured in your liver. When you provide more in the diet it simply makes less. Your body needs to maintain a certain critical level of it, so attempting to drive the numbers as low as possible can be dangerous. There are studies that show that very low cholesterol levels raises the risk for some cardiovascular diseases. (thrombotic stroke, etc.) You should probably strive for a total cholesterol level somewhere around 170 to 200.
Though foods that are high in saturated fat can in fact raise cholesterol levels, they primarily raise the good LDL cholesterol – the large fluffy type A LDL. Excessive carbohydrate on the other hand raises the small, dense type B LDL which is the one you should be concerned about. A high proportion of omega 6 oils in the diet (linoleic acid) can also elevate your Type B LDL. This is another reason to ramp up the omega 3’s instead, which also can lower your triglycerides.
I’ll bet many people would also be surprised to learn that saturated fat actually raises beneficial HDL readings too, and this is greater than the rise in LDL. Again, this shows that the demonization of saturated fat may be way overblown. These are the things your doctor may or may not be telling you. Your doctor knows best of course, but do you have the best doctor?
A few other interesting points: Most people who suffer heart attacks do not have elevated cholesterol. The large studies that are most commonly referred – the Framingham Heart Study, the Nurses Health Study, etc., actually do not implicate high cholesterol as a serious threat – if you read the details of thir research. As a matter of fact in the Framingham Heart study the group with heart disease had essentially similar cholesterol levels as the group who did not. A study is only as good as its interpretation, so read each one with a discerning eye.
I don’t want to imply that you should simply ignore what your blood lipid profiles tell you. High LDL generally does lead to accumiulation of plaque in the arteries, and a host of dangerous ramifications. But if your numbers are not outrageously high, and if the details discussed above are ok, you may be missing sleep over nothing, and your excessive statin use may be causing some negative side issues.
A far better approach would be to watch your blood pressure readings, your weight and your exercise habits. There is no question that these would do much more to ensuring your cardiovascular health.
If you want some good basic info on lipid diagnosis, you might try this interesting web site.