The Truth About Cholesterol Cholesterol could be described as the smoking gun of the last two decades. It’s been responsible for demonizing entire categories of foods (like eggs and saturated fats) and blamed for just about every case of heart disease in the last 20 years. You are probably aware that there are many myths that portray fat and cholesterol as one of the worst foods you can consume. It is these myths are actually harming your health. Not only is cholesterol most likely not going to destroy your health, but it is also not the cause of heart disease. And for those of you taking cholesterol-lowering drugs, please keep reading…
What is Cholesterol, and Why Do You Need It?
This soft, waxy substance is found not only in your bloodstream, but also in every cell in your body, where it helps to produce cell membranes, hormones, vitamin D and bile acids that help you to digest fat. Cholesterol also helps in the formation of your memories and is vital for neurological function.
Your liver makes about 75 percent of your body’s cholesterol and there are two types:
High-density lipoprotein, or HDL: This is the “good” cholesterol that helps to keep cholesterol away from your arteries and remove any excess from arterial plaque, which may help to prevent heart disease.
Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL: This “bad” cholesterol circulates in your blood and, according to conventional thinking, may build up in your arteries, forming plaque that makes your arteries narrow and less flexible (a condition called atherosclerosis). If a clot forms in one of these narrowed arteries leading to your heart or brain, a heart attack or stroke may result.
Triglycerides: Elevated levels of this dangerous fat have been linked to heart disease and diabetes. Triglyceride levels are known to rise from eating too many grains and sugars, being physically inactive, smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol excessively and being overweight or obese.
Lipoprotein (a): Lp(a) is a substance that is made up of an LDL “bad cholesterol” part plus a protein (apoprotein a). Elevated Lp(a) levels are a very strong risk factor for heart disease. This has been well established, yet very few physicians check for it in their patients.
Your Total Cholesterol Level is NOT a Great Indicator of Your Heart Disease Risk
Health officials in the United States urge everyone over the age of 20 to have their cholesterol tested once every five years. Part of this test is your total cholesterol, or the sum of your blood’s cholesterol content, including HDL, LDLs and VLDLs. The American Heart Association recommends that your total cholesterol is less than 200 mg/dL, but what they do not tell you is that total cholesterol level is just about worthless in determining your risk for heart disease, unless it is above 330. In addition, the AHA updated their guidelines in 2004, lowering the recommended level of LDL cholesterol from 130 to LDL to less than 100, or even less than 70 for patients at very high risk.
In order to achieve these outrageous and dangerously low targets, you typically need to take multiple cholesterol-lowering drugs. So the guidelines instantly increased the market for these dangerous drugs.
Comparing numbers and the ratios is a much better indicator of actual risk than total cholesterol…
— HDL/Cholesterol ratio
— Triglyceride/HDL ratios
HDL percentage is a very potent heart disease risk factor. Just divide your HDL level by your cholesterol. That percentage should ideally be above 24 percent. You can also do the same thing with your triglycerides and HDL ratio. That percentage should be below 2.
Remember, however, that these are still simply guidelines, and there’s a lot more that goes into your risk of heart disease than any one of these numbers. The underlying inflammation, if present, is far more important risk factor for heart disease than total cholesterol.
Cholesterol is Your Friend, Not Your Enemy
In the United States, the idea that cholesterol is evil is very much engrained in most people’s minds. This is not true! Cholesterol is a vital component of every cell membrane. In other words, there is no life on Earth that can live without cholesterol. Lowering cholesterol too much increases one’s risk of dying. Cholesterol is also a precursor to all of the steroid hormones. You cannot make estrogen, testosterone, cortisone and a host of other vital hormones without cholesterol.
Mary Enig, Ph.D, an expert in lipid biochemistry, has gone so far as to call high cholesterol “an invented disease, a ‘problem’ that emerged when health professionals learned how to measure cholesterol levels in the blood.”
If you have increased levels of cholesterol, it is at least in part because of increased inflammation in your body. The cholesterol is there to do a job: help your body to heal and repair. Conventional medicine misses the boat entirely when they recommend that lowering cholesterol with drugs is the way to reduce your risk of heart attacks, because what is actually needed is to address whatever is causing your body damage — and leading to increased inflammation and then increased cholesterol. It would seem much smarter to reduce the extra need for the cholesterol — the excessive damage that is occurring, the reason for the chronic inflammation.
If Your Cholesterol is Too Low …
All kinds of nasty things can happen to your body. Remember, every single one of your cells needs cholesterol to thrive — including those in your brain. One large study conducted by Dutch researchers found that men with chronically low cholesterol levels showed a consistently higher risk of having depressive symptoms. Dozens of studies also support a connection between low or lowered cholesterol levels and violent behavior, through this same pathway: lowered cholesterol levels may lead to lowered brain serotonin activity, which may, in turn, lead to increased violence and aggression. And one meta-analysis of over 41,000 patient records found that people who take statin drugs to lower their cholesterol as much as possible may have a higher risk of cancer, while other studies have linked low cholesterol to Parkinson’s disease.
For starters they deplete your body of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), which is beneficial to heart health and muscle function. Because doctors rarely inform people of this risk and advise them to take a CoQ10 supplement, this depletion leads to fatigue, muscle weakness, soreness, and eventually heart failure.
I advise every patient that must take a statin drug to at least make sure they are getting 100mg of quality coenzyme Q10 daily to off-set this risk.
Other side effects:
–Muscle pain and weakness, a condition called rhabdomyolysis
— An increased risk of polyneuropathy (nerve damage that causes pain in the hands and feet and trouble walking)
— Cognitive impairment, including memory loss
— A potential increased risk of cancer
— Decreased function of the immune system
— Liver problems, including a potential increase in liver enzymes (must be regularly monitored for normal liver function)
How does inflammation contribute?
There is a major misconception that you must avoid foods like eggs and saturated fat. This misguided principle is based on the “lipid hypothesis” — developed in the 1950s by nutrition pioneer Ancel Keys — that linked dietary fat to coronary heart disease.
The nutrition community of that time completely accepted the hypothesis, and encouraged the public to cut out butter, red meat, animal fats, eggs, dairy and other “artery clogging” fats from their diets — a radical change at that time. The government health organizations began bombarding the public with advice that has contributed to the diabetes and obesity epidemics going on today: eat a low-fat diet.
Of course, as Americans cut out nutritious animal fats from their diets, they were left hungry. So they began eating more processed grains, more vegetable oils, and more high-fructose corn syrup, all of which are nutritional disasters. It is this latter type of diet that will eventually lead to increased inflammation, and therefore cholesterol, in your body.
Chronic inflammation is actually caused by items such as:
— Oxidized cholesterol (cholesterol that has gone rancid, such as that from overcooked, scrambled eggs)
— Eating lots of sugar and grains
— Eating foods cooked at high temperatures
— Eating trans fats
— A sedentary lifestyle
— Emotional stress
Dietary Tips To Lower Your Cholesterol Naturally…
- Make sure you’re getting plenty of high-quality, animal-based omega 3-fats (i.e fish and fish oils)
- Reduce grains and sugars in your daily diet. It is especially important to eliminate dangerous sugars such as high-fructose corn syrup. If your HDL/Cholesterol ratio is abnormal, it may also help to virtually eliminate fruits from your diet, as that it also a source of fructose. Once your cholesterol improves you can gradually reintroduce it to levels that don’t raise your cholesterol.
- Eat a good portion of your food raw.
- Get the right amount of exercise. When you exercise you increase your circulation and the blood flow throughout your body.
- Avoid smoking and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.
- Limit stressors and incorporate prayer or meditation to lower your cortisol level.
- Avoid trans (artificial) fats in your diet at all costs
- Eat healthy, preferably raw, fats that correspond to your nutritional type. This includes:
- Olive oil
- Coconut and coconut oil
- Organic raw dairy products (including butter, cream, sour cream, cheese, etc.)
- Raw nuts& seeds
- Eggs (lightly cooked with yolks intact or raw)
- Organic, grass-fed meats
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