New cholesterol guidelines are being driven by drug company profits and promoted through the concept of “family history” or familial hypercholesterolemia! But what is the truth about heart disease and the alledged protective effect of statins?

Do these drugs protect aginst heart attacks and extend lifespans or is tghe truth about their effectiness compromised by faulty scientific studies paid for by the same companies that want to market these drugs as life savers?

This analysis by Drt. David Newman sheds light on the problems with studies called “meta-analysis” and how the results of these studies may mislead even doctors as to the safety and effectivenss of statin drugs for their cardiac patients.

The Diet-Heart Myth: Statins Don’t Save Lives in People …

http://chriskresser.com/ Mon, 13 May 2013 08:00:00 -0700

An analysis by Dr. David Newman in 2010 which drew on large meta-analyses of statins found that among those with pre-existing heart disease that took statins for 5 years (1): ….. Certainly I have a few older female patients who had chronic high LDL and LDL-P with family history even, but no other risk factors I could see, where I tested them up and down for evidence of vascular disease (they were concerned with being a walking time bomb) and found NONE – no …

Read more …

HDL cholesterol level is the most important factor in your cholesterol profile. The cholesterol hdl ratio is used to determine your risk of a heart attack or stroke. Low hdl means greater risk, and I will explain the reasons why.

hdl cholesterol levelThe effect of cholesterol on your heart health has been distorted by bad information over the years. This is because pharmaceutical companies want to sell statin drugs, so they influenced doctors to set up guidelines that call for proscribing these drugs for lowering cholesterol levels.

The drugs do not lower cholesterol naturally, they do it by interfering with your body’s natural production of lipids, which is unhealthy and dangerous. What makes cholesterol a problem in your arteries is inflammation and free radicals which oxidize the cholesterol and turn it into hard plaques. Hdl cholesterol prevents this process, and protects you against heart disease.

How to raise increase good cholesterol

We know that HDL cholesterol functions as an antioxidant in the body. This means that it will help prevent LDL cholesterol from turning into dangerous plaques inside your arteries. This is why the cholesterol HDL ratio can predict your risk of heart disease. The higher the HDL cholesterol levels, the lower your risk.

So just how do we increase good cholesterol? We do it by diet, exercise, and using certain nutritional supplements that help boost HDL  levels.

Let’s start with diet! Below are some foods that can help increase good cholesterol:

  • Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines
  • Raw nuts and seeds like walnuts, pecans, almonds, and flaxseeds
  • Whole eggs (yes that’s right…they must be WHOLE eggs)
  • Onions
  • Fresh raw low glycemic vegetables – especially dark leafy greens
  • Oat bran
  • Alcohol – 1 or 2 drinks per day maximum

These foods work in a natural way by giving your body the raw materials such as essential fatty acids it needs to raise  HDL!

Nutritional Supplements

Nutritional supplements can also help you increase good cholesterol

  • Fish oil
  • Pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5)
  • niacin – (vitamin B-3)
  • Gugulipid
  • Coenzyme Q-10
  • Carnitine
  • Vitamin-C
  • Vitamin-D
  • Magnesium
  • Polycosanol
  • Vitamin E-complex
  • Alpha Lipoic Acid
  • N-Acetyl-Cysteine
  • CLA – conjugated linoleic acid

All of these supplements help increase HDL levels, however niacin (B-3) and calcium pantothenate (B-5) are the most effective, so you should focus on them first, and add others if needed.

Exercise to raise your HDL cholesterol level

The best form of exercise is some kind of internal training. This might be circuit weight training, kettlebells, bodyweight exercises, ect. The main principle is the workouts should be brief, intense, and make your heart and lungs work hard.

Naturally, if you are older, or not on good health, you should get clearance from your doctor before engaging in strenuous exercise. You should also work into an exercise program gradually so that your body gets used to it. Never jump right into an intense exercise program. Take time to build up your exercise capacity so that you don’t overdo it.

The PACE program by Dr. Al Sears is an excellent exercise system for this!

Just what are good HDL cholesterol levels?

Remember that the cholesterol HDL ratio is very important. That determines your risk of heart attack. The table below reflects the Amercian Heart Association guidelines:

American Heart Association Guidelines

Desirable Borderline Risk
High Risk
HDL
60 or higher
40 to 59
40 or less (men)
HDL
60 or higher
50 to 59
50 or less (women)

Action steps to raise for your HDL cholesterol level:

  • Get your cholesterol HDL ratio tested so you know what they are to start
  • Work in 3 15 minute sessions of circuit or interval training per week
  • Avoid refined foods if possible – stick to raw fruits and vegetables
  • Get plenty of healthy fats in your daily diet
  • Supplement with niacin (B-3) and calcium pantothenate (B-5) to raise HDL

Your HDL cholesterol level is one of the best predictive markers for heart disease that we know of. HDL cholesterol protects you against heart disease, stroke, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. Make it a point to get your HDL cholesterol levels checked, get them into the healthy range and keep them there. Your heart will thank you!

Normal cholesterol levels…just what are they?  This is hard to determine because what is normal for one person is not normal for another. There is only a range where experts generally agree the risk of heart disease either increases or decreases when your cholesterol level falls outside of that range.

That’s about the best modern medicine can do, because of the many other factors involved in heart disease, and the fact that there is really no “normal level” just a normal cholesterol range.

The following table will help define what normal cholesterol levels are said to be by the American Heart Association:

American Heart Association Guidelines
Desirable Borderline Risk
High Risk
Total Cholesterol
200 or less
200-239
240 and over
HDL
60 or higher
40 to 59
40 or less (men)
HDL
60 or higher
50 to 59
50 or less (women)
LDL
less than 100
130-159
160-189
Triglycerides
less than 150
150-199
200-499

Normal Cholesterol Range and Hear Disease Risk

Keep in mind that these so called normal cholesterol levels are not absolutes, they are statistical representations of risk based on data that has been accumulated from studies and patient populations. What that all means is that they are scientific guesses!

Also bear in mind that the pharmaceutical industry CAN and DOES influence guidelines for normal cholesterol levels and risk factors, because it is to their advantage to do so. When the guidelines lower the threshold at which a person is said to be “at risk” more drugs are prescribed by doctors based on those guidelines.

This is very good for the drug companies because it boosts their sales of statin drugs, but it is NOT so good for patients, because they are being given drugs with toxic side effects based on an assessed “risk” that has been influenced by the companies that make the drugs.

So use the normal cholesterol levels in the above chart as just a guide, and focus on lowering cholesterol naturally, as well as inflammation. When you use natural methods, your body will normalize it’s cholesterol levels to what is appropriate for YOU.

You will be much healthier for it and will avoid toxic medications. These drugs can themselves create life threatening side effects which may be as bad or worse than the medical condition they are supposed to prevent.

Normal Cholesterol Levels vs HDL Ratio

The chart above also references what we call the HDL/LDL ratio. This is the ratio of the so called “good cholesterol” vs the “bad cholesterol.” This ration is actually more important as a risk factor than the total cholesterol level, because HDL is said to protect against heart disease.

There are many ways to raise HDL levels which when you think about it may also raise your total cholesterol level. However remember that the higher the HDL level, the less chance of heart disease, so raising HDL is something you definitely want to do.

Some of the strategies I will show you in this blog will both lower LDL and raise HDL. So DO think about this in terms of achieving this healthy ratio, rather than getting hung up on just the total cholesterol numbers, and what normal cholesterol levels are supposed to be. Remember that this ratio is more important than just being in the normal cholesterol range.

Cholesterol production vs serum cholesterol

Serum cholesterol is the amount of cholesterol detected in your blood. Your body actually makes cholesterol, which is a perfectly normal and natural function. Unless you have a genetic defect, it won’t make too much cholesterol.

Your focus when achieve a normal cholesterol level should be diet, exercise, and nutritional supplements! Statin drugs prevent your body from making cholesterol which is a dangerous thing to do.

The correct way to achieve so called normal cholesterol levels is making sure your body has low levels of inflammation, and helping your body clear excess cholesterol from your system, rather than allowing it to be cycled back into your bloodstream again.

Lowering triglycerides can significantly improve heart health! Your body is an totally integrated system. Knowing the cause of high triglycerides and learning how to reduce your levels will decease your risk of heart disease.

lowering triglyceridesWhile cholesterol is most often blamed for heart disease, recent scientific evidence does not support the theory that cholesterol causes cardiovascular disease. Fully half of all heart attacks occur in patients who have what are considered normal cholesterol levels. The evidence more strongly points toward triglycerides.

Triglycerides are a major factor in heart disease. An estimate two thirds of heart disease cases are at least partly a result of abnormal triglyceride levels.

There are two types of high triglycerides:

  • Familial (genetic) – usually over 400mg/dl this is not
    thought to be a cause of heart disease
  • Insulin resistant – usually 150-400mg/dl this is dangerous,
    associated with pre-diabetes and increased risk of heart disease

What are triglycerides and why are they important?

Triglycerides are lipids that are made from fats or carbohydrates you eat and are stored in the body. The higher their levels, the greater your risk for heart disease, which is why lowering triglycerides is so critical for your cardiovascular health.

Here is why elevated triglycerides are dangerous, and why lowering triglycerides is so important.

  • They are deposited in various organs including the heart
  • They can alter gene expression and increases heart disease
  • They can cause insulin resistance leading to diabetes
  • They can accumulate on artery walls causing plaque buildup
  • They thicken blood causing strokes and other circulatory
    problems
  • They contribute to abdominal obesity

What is a normal triglyceride level?

Before you go about lowering triglycerides, you need to check your levels to get a baseline so that you can tell how effective your efforts to lower them are!

The guidelines of the American Heart Association recommend that a normal triglyceride level is under 149 mg/dl.

However the Life Extension Foundation recommends an even lower level of 80-100 mg/dl measured in a fasting state.

The “fasting state” is when you have not eaten for at least 12 hours.

Unlike cholesterol, you really don’t have to worry about triglycerides going too low, so lowering triglycerides will have positive benefits for your health.  Doing the right things will bring the levels down naturally, to what is optimal for you.

Cause of high triglycerides

Just what causes these levels to become too high?

There are several factors:

  • Eating carbohydrates that raise your blood sugar rapidly
  • Problems with carbohydrate metabolism
  • Heavy drinking
  • Insulin resistance (poor insulin sensitivity)
  • A diet that consists of over 60% carbohydrate
  • Smoking
  • Lack of exercise – low physical activity
  • Obesity
  • Metabolic Syndrome
  • Kidney disease
  • Certain prescription medications (estrogen, birth control pills, tamoxifen, steroids, beta-blockers, and diuretics)

Lowering triglycerides

Lowering triglycerides really comes down to two things, restricting sugars, and getting regular exercise. Of course there is more to it than that, but those are the two most effective things.

Most people eat too many refined carbohydrates, and that is the cause of high triglycerides.

A “low glycemic diet” high in fiber will help in lowering triglycerides. This is because fiber slows down the entry of sugars into the bloodstream. Rapid entry of sugar into the bloodstream causes insulin to rise, and this promotes inflammation which in turn causes triglyceride levels to go up!

Nutritional supplements such as circumin, and green coffee extract, can also help by lowering inflammation, and helping the body manage blood sugar levels more efficiently.

Exercise also helps in lowering triglycerides  because it increases insulin sensitivity, maintains lean muscle, and mobilizes fatty acids to be burned for energy.

Below are some short simple steps for lowering triglycerides:

  • Limit your carbohydrates to mostly fresh vegetables – go easy on fruits
  • Eat what is known as a low glycemic diet
  • Avoid over consuming grains, and eating sweets
  • Eat lean proteins
  • Use nutritional supplements as you need them
  • Get some kind of brisk exercise each day

That’s pretty much it! Lowering triglycerides willboost heart health and improve the health of your entire cardiovascular system.  It’s probably the best things you can do to put yourself on a path to better health!

C-Reactive Protein  or CRP,  is what is called an inflammatory marker. It measures levels of a particular protein that indicate increased inflammation in your body. Along with homocysteine, it completes the picture of heart disease risk that begins with your cholesterol profile.

c-reactie proteinWhile optimizing your cholesterol profile is important, medical researchers noticed that half of all heart attack victims had normal cholesterol levels.

They realized that there were risk factors other than just cholesterol. This is where the c-reactive protein test comes in.

The test is a measure of inflammation and infection in your body, both of which are significant risk factors for heart disease that are largely ignored by mainstream medicine. Inflammatory markers like CRP are necessary in order to get an accurate idea of what your heart disease risk really is!

The test is part of that missing piece of the puzzle that explains heart disease risk, beyond just your cholesterol numbers. If your levels are high, then lowering them will definitely lessen your risk of heart disease. When you attempt to lower cholesterol naturally, you will have to pay attention to
CRP as well. The good news is that the same strategies will work for both!

What elevates CRP?

Your levels of c-reactive protein are elevated by increased inflammation in your body. Many things can cause this, so it is important to have the test done when you are feeling well and not suffering from illness or unusual stress, so that you can get an accurate reading of your levels, without
having the level elevated due to some injury, illness, or trauma.

For instance oral bacteria from dental cavities can elevate CRP levels, because those bacteria also cause inflammation. This is why dental health is correlated with heart disease risk. Bacterial infections of any kind will raise inflammation as your immune system attempts to fight off the bacteria.

What are healthy levels of c-reactive protein?

The CRP test measures results in milligrams per liter of blood.

The following guidelines for are recommended by the
American Heart Association (AHA) to determine heart disease risk:

  •     Low risk: CRP is 1 milligram/per liter or less
  •     Moderate risk: CRP is 1 to 3 milligrams/ per liter
  •     High risk: CRP is greater than 3 milligrams/ per liter

Lowering Inflammation

How do you lower inflammation and get the levels on the c-reactive protein test into the healthy range?  Since all these heart disease risk factors respond to the same lifestyle changes, you can address them all by doing a few simple things.

  •     Eating an “anti-inflammatory diet”
  •     Practice good oral hygiene
  •     Getting regular exercise
  •     Grounding
  •     Stress reduction
  •     Proper nutritional supplements

The Bottom Line

All of the various risk factors for heart disease may seem bewildering and overly technical. That is how medical science functions. Every factor must be measured and accounted for. The good part is that when you lower cholesterol naturally, you will be addressing these other factors as well.

However as I mentioned before, all of these factors are related, and they are just various manifestations of inflammation. Lowering inflammation will bring CRP and these other heart disease indicators to a better level. So that should be your goal, to use diet, exercise and nutritional supplementation in lowering inflammation.

C-reactive protein, homocysteine, and cholesterol profile are all necessary tests to precisely and accurately determine what your risk for heart disease really is. Work to lower your inflammatory markers, and you will be much healthier for it!

What are optimal cholesterol numbers? Doesn’t this contradict the latest theory that cholesterol does NOT cause heart disease. The truth is that it is a “factor” but not the “cause”!

cholesterol numbersHow do we establish what the optimal levels for LDL and HDL are? These are important questions because the idea that cholesterol specifically causes heart disease is so deeply ingrained in the average person (and most doctors as well).

This is a difficult question to answer definitively because the issue is just so complex. I can tell you what some of the guidelines are, and of course they vary from one source to another. There is a generally accepted “optimal range” for cholesterol numbers.

Here are the guidelines issued by the American Heart Association.

 

Desirable Borderline Risk High Risk
Total Cholesterol 200 or less 200-239 240 and over
HDL 60 or higher 40-59 40 or less (men)
HDL 60 or higher 50-59 50 or less (women)
LDL less than 100 130-159 160-189
Triglycerides less than 150 150-199 200-499

 

 

 

 

 

Keep in mind that these guidelines somewhat reflect the influence of the drug industry and their attempts to increase their market for cholesterol lowering drugs called “statins.”

The recommended cholesterol numbers keep being adjusted downward, in my opinion in order to get doctors to prescribe more statin drugs which of course boots revenues of the drug industry.

In addition, there are other tests which are called “inflammatory markers,” that have a direct bearing on your risk for developing heart disease, and these tests should also be used to more accurately determine what your overall risk of cardiovascular disease is.

Once you know your level of risk based on the latest tests and analysis of particle types, then you can target your lifestyle strategies (exercise, diet, and stress reduction) to protect your heart health. This should always be the end point of ANY testing…a program to address whatever risks the tests have identified.

What really DOES Causes Heart Disease?

Here’s a simplified explanation. Heart disease is caused by inflammation. That is what actually damages the lining of your arteries. As Dr. Stephen Sinatra likes to say “Cholesterol is found at the scene of the crime, but it’s not the perpetrator!”

When arteries are damaged, your body uses LDL to try and repair the damage, kind of like patching holes in a wall. Obviously the LDL did not cause the damage, but gets attached to the artery walls and accumulates eventually clogging the artery. This is called an “occlusion.”

When the LDL particles that stick to your arteries become oxidized and thus inflammatory, the process of arteriosclerosis begins. This is where the small highly inflammatory LDL particles called HP(a) come in.

So again, the cholesterol did not initiate the process of heart disease, but it IS an important factor in the progression of heart disease. With that out of the way, lets move on…

Focus on Particle Size and Type, Not Just Cholesterol Numbers

The real focus should be on the type and particle size NOT just the levels. According to Dr. Stephen Sinatra, an integrative cardiologist who is board certified by the American College of Cardiology, if your LDL particles are large and fluffy then you really don’t need to worry so much about your LDL levels.

However if the LDL’s are small dense highly inflammatory particles, then your risk is greatly elevated. There is a test that measures for these small inflammatory particles (HP(a)), called the Lipoprotein Particle Profile (LPP) test.

The LPP test measures the level of HP(a) which is a small dense LDL particle which is very toxic and inflammatory to the blood, potentially causing your blood to become “hyper-coagulated” which is another word for sticky and more likely to clot.

The takeaway message is that if you have this dangerous inflammatory LDL particle, then obviously the higher your total cholesterol numbers, the more of this dangerous particle you have, and the greater your risk. Simply stated, high levels matter when you have dangerous LDL particles in your blood.

So in closing, optimal cholesterol numbers are totally dependent on particle size and type. If your cholesterol particles are the small dense inflammatory type, then you need to make a greater effort to lower your levels.

If your LDL type is large and non-inflammatory, then your total levels are not something to be overly concerned about. You should take the time to consult with an integrative cardiologist to determine how best to manage your heart health.

What is Cholesterol

What is cholesterol? Among other things it is a very much misunderstood substance that people have been unnecessarily frightened of. They have been told repeatedly by “experts and authorities” that it’s a dangerous substance, that must be lowered in your body before it kills you!

what is cholesterolIn this information website, we will try and demystify this perfectly natural substance and disprove once and for all that it causes heart disease! We will also provide good solid information and easy to implement strategies that will help you prevent heart disease instead of just “lowering cholesterol.”

Let’s start with a discussion of  what is cholesterol…

Cholesterol is a fat (also called a lipid) that is made in the liver. It’s part of a class of compounds called steroids which are made in the bodies of all animals. This substance is vital to your body, is transported through the blood, and is contained in the external layers of all cells.

The origin of the word cholesterol originally comes from the word chole which means bile in Greek. The other part of the word derives from the Greek word stereos meaning stiff or solid. This waxy fatty substance is necessary for your cells to maintain their structural integrity.

This is why it is absolutely vital for life, and in fact your body actually manufactures this substance for use in all of your cells. Statin drugs interfere with the production of cholesterol which is why they cause so many side effects.

What is cholesterol used for?

There are many functions for this amazing substance:

  • It is used in creating the myelin that coats and protects your nerves somewhat like the insulation on a wire.
  • It is used for synthesizing bile acids which your body needs for digestion.
  • Your body uses it to make sex hormones (androgens and estrogens) and also in the synthesis of the adrenal hormones such as cortisol and aldosterone.
  • It’s used in to metabolize vitamins A, D, E, and K (the fat soluble vitamins)
  • It is used in the reactions that synthesize vitamin D from sunlight.
  • It’s essential for maintaining the outer structural layer of your cells and also for keeping the cell membranes permeable so that certain molecules can pass through the membrane and enter the cell.

In order to travel through your bloodstream, it needs to have a protein coating and thus becomes something called a “lipoprotein.” They are called lipoprotiens because they contain both protein and fat.

The four main types of these lipoproteins are:

  1. LDL or low density lipoproteins often called bad and are associated with an increased risk of heart disease when they are high
  2. Chylomicrons (triglycerides) consisting of approximately 90%  fat
  3. HDL or high density lipoproteins (often referred to as the “good cholesterol”) HDL is thought to “protect” the arteries from damage by carrying away LDL particles so they can’t build up on your artery walls.
  4. VLDL or very low-density lipoproteins (often referred to as a very bad form of lipoproteins) These particles are considered to have the highest risk of contributing to heart disease because they are small dense highly inflammatory particles that can damage artery walls.

The role of triglycerides…

Triglycerides are fat molecules that come from the fat in the foods we eat, or can be synthesized from carbohydrates that are not burned for energy. These triglycerides are stored in your body and released to be burned for energy when your body does not get enough food to meet it’s energy needs. The truth is that it is triglycerides that really increase the risk of heart disease!
Hypertriglyceridemia is a term used to refer to high levels of triglyceries in the blood and researchers now know that this is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. High glycemic carbohydrates can raise levels of triglycerides and greatly increase risk of heart disease.

While this area is still somewhat controversial, it’s clear that triglycerides have a major role in heart disease and they are increased by sugar consumption. It makes sense for this reason to keep your intake of sugar and high glycemic carbohydrates low to avoid setting yourself up for cardiovascular disease.

A Complex Question…

Doctors have been taught to calculate your risk of heart disease using ratios of these lipoprotein particles. They have also been given guidelines for what the “safe” and “dangerous” levels are.  Now these guidelines have been called into question, as new information has changed what the medical community “thought” they knew!

Even though the question of  what is cholesterol is a complex one, you will see that terms like good  and bad cholesterol are misleading and inaccurate. All of these forms of this vital substance have their necessary roles. Instead we should be looking at the effects of chronic inflammation and how we can neutralize it, because it is really inflammation that causes heart disease!

References:

Curr Cardiol Rep. 2011 Dec;13(6):544-52. doi: 10.1007/s11886-011-0220-3.
The role of triglycerides in atherosclerosis. Talayero BG, Sacks FM.
Source: Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115, USA. btalayer@hsph.harvard.edu