fasting blood sugar testThe fasting blood sugar test will actually tell you more about your risk of heart disease than your cholesterol profile. Are you surprised?

Don’t be! While this is not a “cholesterol test,” it IS an important marker for heart disease risk!

Sugar is intimately involved with inflammation, and as we know, it is inflammation that is the real culprit in heart disease, cholesterol is just along for the ride!

According to Dr. Mark Houston associate professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University, for every additional point above 75 on your fasting blood sugar reading, your risk of heart disease goes up!

This is due to the fact that high blood sugar levels in your blood are an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

The impact of elevated blood glucose levels

Sugar is a killer, a serial killer, where your health is concerned. Medical science is just now starting to figure out how damaging sugar can be in your system when the levels are high.

There are a number of reasons for this:

  • High blood sugar causes increased insulin (which is a pro-inflammatory hormone)
  • Elevated sugar levels make your blood more acidic and it tends to clot more readily
  • Sugar causes stiffening of arteries and blood vessels
  • Sugar decreases the oxygen carrying capacity of your blood
  • Nitric oxide is vital for heart health and high sugar levels lower it
  • High sugar levels also cause glycation which is a hardening of tissues in your heart and arteries

For all the reasons above, it’s important to know what your blood sugar levels are, so that if they are high, you can make the necessary changes that will bring the level down and reduce your risk of heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure.

How is the test performed?

A fasting blood sugar test, which is also called a fasting plasma glucose, or FPG test, measures your blood glucose level after you have fasted for at least 8 hours.

It’s a very accurate test, and does not vary by age or how physically active you are. It tends to be a physician favorite because it’s easy to do, cheap, and you get the results relatively fast.

The test is done first thing in the morning (so you can get the results by the afternoon), after at least an 8 hour period with no food, and nothing to drink but water.

A nurse or physician assistant will draw your blood and send the sample to the lab. When the results come back your doctor will discuss with you what the results mean, in terms of your risk for both heart disease and diabetes.

Levels for these tests are expressed in “millgrams per deciliter” (a deciliter is one 10th of a liter). Thus a reading of 100mg/dl is read as 100 milligrams per deciliter.

The threshold for normal fasting sugar levels should be below 100mg/dl, but some experts, most notably Dr. Mark Houston, feel the safe level is 70 -75 mg/dl!

What do the scores mean?

Doctors use what are called “reference ranges” to determine exactly what these tests indicate. All of this is of course relative to the results taken of sample populations to determine what is statistically healthy and what is not.

There are cut off points beyond which a clinical diagnosis is made, and these would appear to be splitting hairs so to speak, but of course the line must be drawn somewhere.  Whatever the result, you will have a much better idea of where you stand, and what you have to do to protect your health in the long term.

If your blood sugar measures between 100 mg/dl to 125 mg/dl, the doctor will probably order a follow-up test to eliminate error. This test result indicates “pre-diabetes” and your doctor may want to discuss steps you can take to bring your sugar levels down and prevent diabetes.

If you score 126mg/dl or above, the doctor will want to test you again to eliminate the chance of some anomaly that might have caused an inaccurate reading. If a follow-up test scores the same result, this will confirm that you are diabetic!

Of course it may seem silly to say that if your result on this test is 125mg/dl you don’t have diabetes and at 126 mg/dl you ARE diabetic, but they had to make a cut off point somewhere.

What is important is that if you are in the range 100-125 you need to make changes to your nutrition and exercise habits to get your blood sugar down to healthy levels.

Insulin is a factor too!

When your blood sugar levels spike, your body produces insulin to lower the sugar level. So if your fasting blood sugar test indicates higher than normal blood sugar levels, you can be sure your insulin levels are high as well.

Insulin is a very pro-inflammatory hormone that causes a lot of problems in your body when it is chronically elevated. This is another reason why you would want to get your sugar levels down to what is considered healthy.

Insulin causes inflammation and damage to the endothelial lining of your arteries, which is how the process of atherosclerosis begins. Thus your sugar levels have a direct bearing on the development of heart disease.

Connection with heart disease

If your blood glucose levels are chronically elevated, a process called glycation comes into play, which causes tissues like the heart and blood vessels to lose elasticity and become stiff.

This stiffening process, along with the damage from inflammation, makes you susceptible to heart attacks, high blood pressure and strokes.

To make it really simple and clear, elevated blood sugar=heart disease! This connection is far more important than cholesterol which does not directly cause heart disease. High blood glucose levels are also a factor in many other chronic diseases as well.

The fasting blood sugar test, by measuring how high your blood sugar is on average gives you a clear indication that your risk for heart disease is elevated, which in turn gives you a chance to lower your risk and avoid heart disease, by bringing your blood sugar levels down.

Citrus BergamotCitrus Bergamot is the latest natural supplement for lowering cholesterol levels and can also lower blood sugar as well. This new food supplement has taken the medical world by storm, even being used in place of statin drugs in some cases.

Truth be known, it’s an interesting compound but has many varied effects. It’s ability to block the synthesis of cholesterol means that it could cause problems in some people who’s cholesterol levels are too low to start with.

It is beneficial in other ways though, so it’s definitely something you need to discuss with an integrative cardiologist, if you are attempting to use it as a means of lowering cholesterol levels.

What is Citrus Bergamot?

Citrus Bergamot is a small sized tree that will blossom during winter. In terms of bitterness, it is less bitter than lemon but more than grapefruit. It is used as an ingredient in Earl Grey Tea. The juice of this plant is not consumed, but is used as a treatment for malaria, and the oil is used for aromatherapy.

A fragrant orange sized yellow green citrus fruit that is grown commercially in the Calabria region of Southern Italy. It is grown also in the southern part of France, as well as the south of Turkey.

The essential oil of Bergamot is a dark greenish-brown in color and is extracted in Cote d’Ivorie. It is grown in Antalya Turkey for use in marmalade.

Unlike other citrus fruits, Bergamot has very large amounts of polyphenols. Two of those compounds Melitidin, and Brutieridin, block the synthesis of cholesterol in the liver in much the same way statin drugs do.

It also has a similar effect to grapefruit in that it can affect the way your body metabolizes various pharmaceutical drugs.

How does it work?

Bergemot reduces the amount of triglycerides and cholesterol you would ordinarily absorb through meals. It also reduces the biosynthesis of cholesterol in the body. It also helps glucose get into cells which is beneficial for diabetics.

It blocks the HMG CoA Reductase Enzyme, which is what statin drugs do. It contains substances called polyphenolic flavanoids that suppress cholesterol production in much the same way that statins do, but it works in a different way that does not seem to deplete coenzyme Q10.

There are three main modes of action:

  • Blocks the HMG CoA Reductase Enzyme
  • Works on insulin receptors to improve shuttling of glucose into cells
  • Blocks cholesterol absorption in the intestine similar to plant sterols

What are some of the benefits of Citrus Bergamot?

  • It promotes fat burning and improves blood sugar control. This helps combat obesity and promotes weight loss.
  • It combats arterial stiffness due to it’s effect on sugar metabolism, and the benefits of the flavinoids it contains.
  • Can reduces LDL and triglycerides and increase HDL cholesterol
  • Helps in lowering blood pressure
  • Bergamot shows anti-tumor action and may be effective in combating neuroblastoma and other metastic cancers
  • It demonstrates anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that improve endothelial function

How is Bergamot taken?

When used for it’s cholesterol lowering effect, it would be taken in capsule form at appropriate doses, and this is where things get tricky. The medical profession knows a lot about drugs and the dosages that should be given, but not very much about vitamins, nutraceuticals, and herbs.

Citrus Bergamot capsulesDosage recommendations for this supplement are anecdotal and not the result of carefully controlled trials and years of clinical case studies and experience. Great care should be taken with this supplement, as it does mimic the effects of statin drugs, and thus could have some of the same side effects.

Given this fact, I think it’s wise to seek the advice of a complementary physician, who has knowledge of alternative treatments.

In research conducted at the Scripps Integrated Medicine Conference in San Diego California, in January 2012, they used 1,000 milligrams per day and got an average reduction in total cholesterol levels of 29%, a 36% reduction in LDL, and increase HDL cholesterol by 40%!

Reductions in triglycerides of 30%, and blood glucose of 20% on average were also noted. From this result the researches concluded that Citrus Bergamot extract at a dosage of 1,000 milligrams per day was an effective substitute for statin drugs for lowering LDL cholesterol, and also treating metabolic syndrome.

In Summary:

Citrus Bergamot is an interesting compound with some powerful effects on cholesterol metabolism, blood sugar control, and metabolic syndrome. It has demonstrated anti-tumor effects as well. However due to it’s statin like mode of action, I would very strongly suggest that you use it ONLY under the direction of a doctor who is knowledgeable about alternative medicine.

The doctor can help you determine if it’s right for you, and if so, how to arrive at a safe and effective dosage.

Research references:

Fitoterapia. 2011 Apr;82(3):309-16. doi: 10.1016/j.fitote.2010.10.014. Epub 2010 Nov 4.
Hypolipemic and hypoglycaemic activity of bergamot polyphenols: from animal models to human studies.

Fitoterapia. 2010 Sep;81(6):453-61. doi: 10.1016/j.fitote.2010.01.013. Epub 2010 Jan 20.
Neuropharmacology of the essential oil of bergamot.

Int J Cardiol. 2013 Dec 10;170(2):140-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2013.08.125. Epub 2013 Sep 8.
Bergamot polyphenolic fraction enhances rosuvastatin-induced effect on LDL-cholesterol, LOX-1 expression and protein kinase B phosphorylation in patients with hyperlipidemia.

Fitoterapia. 2014 Jun;95:83-92. doi: 10.1016/j.fitote.2014.02.009. Epub 2014 Mar 2.
Effect of Citrus bergamia juice on human neuroblastoma cells in vitro and in metastatic xenograft models.

PLoS One. 2013 Apr 16;8(4):e61484. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0061484. Print 2013.
Mechanisms underlying the anti-tumoral effects of Citrus Bergamia juice.

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.

niacin taken to lower cholesterolNiacin for cholesterol has for years been the choice of natural supplements that lower cholesterol.  Niacin (vitamin b-3) can improve cholesterol profiles when used in high doses such as 1,000 to 3,000 milligrams per day.

The use of niacin to lower cholesterol has a lot of sound scientific research behind it. It is considered to be the most effective way to lower cholesterol naturally that is currently available.

This is far above the MRD (minimum daily requirement for vitamin b-3, so when it’s being used to lower cholesterol levels, we call that a “therapeutic dose.” These dosages will cause a reaction call a “niacin flush,” which if you are not used to it may be a little disturbing.

This flushing can be controlled by gradual increases in the dosage so that the body has time to adjust and does not react as strongly.

When using niacin for cholesterol, your skin will turn red and you will feel itchy. This is due to what’s called vasodilation. Niacin (also referred to as nicotinic acid) will lower cholesterol levels, reduce triglycerides, and improve the cholesterol hdl ratio, by boosting hdl levels.

Recent studies have shown that a lower dose (1.5 grams/day) of niacin is effective in lowering ldl levels and also boosting hdl levels. This dosage is better tolerated by the majority of people and is thought to be relatively safe for the liver.

Non-flush – niacin for cholesterol

There is a form of niacin that will not trigger as much flushing as regular niacin. The information on this form is contradictory, but some research indicates that it can be effective at both lowering ldl and raising hdl. It’s called extended release niacin.

People DO still get some flushing from this form, but much less. The issue of people not taking the regular form of niacin to lower cholesterol is because of the unpleasant flush, is not a problem with extended release niacin. Because it is so much milder, it may be more effective simply because people will not avoid taking it. This is called “patient compliance” in medical terms.

Together with using extended release niacin, other strategies to lessen the flush reaction are taking it with meals or snacks, and avoiding alcohol when taking it.

Niacin to lower cholesterol – dosage and side effects

Taking niacin for cholesterol, inhibits the breakdown of hdl in the body, which obviously results in higher hdl levels and a better cholesterol hdl ratio. Higher hdl levels alone lower the risk of heart disease, but niacin helps in another way, by lowering ldl levels as well.

Niacin taken at (1-3 grams/day) prevent the breakdown of fats which the liver uses to make lipoproteins. This lowers levels of both ldl and triglycerides, a very beneficial result. Lower triglyceride levels result in lower levels of ldl cholesterol which also lowers risk of heart attacks.

Side effects beyond the flushing reaction are rare but can include alterations in blood pressure, gastrointestinal distress, and liver damage. Although vitamins that lower cholesterol are safer than drugs, you really should seek expert medical advice when using niacin for cholesterol, both from the standpoint of safety and effectiveness.

You also need medical advice to avoid potential bad reactions from taking niacin for cholesterol with any drugs that you are on. Again the advice of a doctor is needed, because they are familiar with side effects and adverse reactions from combining drugs and nutrients.

Natural supplement or prescription

Odd as it might seem there ARE prescription forms of niacin. I have no information which suggests they work any better than what you can get over the counter, and in fact, they may have more side effects depending on how they were formulated.

If you are advised to take a prescription form of niacin for cholesterol, research the side effects very carefully as they are likely to be greater than what you would get with a natural supplement. You want to lower cholesterol naturally and safely!

Remember also that as effective as niacin is, you have to do all of the other things which protect you from heart disease, like eating a healthy diet, getting the right exercise, and reducing your stress. These strategies work together to keep your heart healthy.

The PLAC test is a cutting edge medical screening test that identifies arterial The PLAC Testplaque that is in danger of rupturing. This test, used in conjunction with other cholesterol screening tests can pinpoint your risk of a sudden heart attack with a much greater degree of certainty.

The test actually measures levels of an enzyme in your blood known as lipoprotein phospholipase A2. This enzyme is responsible for a process that can cause damage to your endothelial layer and set the stage for atherosclerotic plaques which can rupture and trigger a heart attack.

When your levels of Lp-PLA2 are elevated, it indicates that you have plaque that can rupture and create a blood clot that results in a heart attack or stroke.

The most current information we have tells us that using cholesterol levels to determine your risk of heart attack is not very accurate. However medical science has identified a process where LDLs (low density lipoproteins) and Lp-PLA2 particles undergo oxidation by free radicals.

These oxidized particles then attack the blood vessel wall causing damage and making the plaque deposits hard and brittle. This oxidized brittle plaque can then break off and cause life threatening problems such as a heart attack or stroke.

Lp-PLA2 is actually created in atherosclerotic plaques and thus can serve as a marker for inflammation in the artery wall. People who have heart disease show high levels of this marker (Lp-PLA2) which not only indicates they have plaque buildup, but also that the plaque is oxidized and can cause severe cardiovascular events.

Autopsies on patients who died suddenly of heart attacks showed ruptured plaques and high levels of Lp-PLA2 in their arteries.

This has also been see in patients who undergo surgery for carotid artery atherosclerosis. They show the same high levels of Lp-PLA2 that indicates a danger of rupturing plaque.

Those people who showed atherosclerosis of the carotid artery but did not show symptoms had much lower levels of Lp_PLA2. It’s clear from this evidence that this is a very significant and useful marker for predicting sudden cardiovascular events.

Studies done at the May Clinic also found that Lp-PLA2 was a specific indicator of dangerous plaques even in the absence of other risk factors. This indicates that it is inflammation and not merely cholesterol levels that create the risk of sudden heart attacks and stokes, so it is inflammation that we should address in our efforts to prevent heart disease.

Advantages of the PLAC test:

  • The test more accurately predicts the risk of sudden heart attack or stroke than other lipid screening tests.
  • The test directly measure lipoprotein phospholipase levels, a very accurate inflammation marker.
  • The PLAC test is the only medical screening approved by the FDA that indicates both heart attack and stroke risk in patients.
  • The test is relatively inexpensive and convenient.
  • The test can also be used to monitor a patients response to treatment and lifestyle changes.
  • The test is covered by Medicare and private insurance companies.
  • The test does not have to be taken in a fasting state.
  • The test can be used in patients that are currently using Pravachol, Benadryl, and Tylenol

Who should get the PLAC test and when?

Experts recommend a formula for determining who should get the test based on other risk factors and their estimate risk of sudden heart attack within a ten year period. This makes no sense to me at all. We have a test that can specifically identify people who are a high risk for a heart attack or stroke, before this actually happens and give them a chance to lower their risk.

I believe the PLAC test should be used as a standard cardiovascular screen test, because it targets the process that is actually dangerous, rather than cholesterol levels which don’t really give an accurate measure of your risk. Once the test has been done, all that’s left is to determine how to go about lowering the risk, by reducing the inflammation in your arteries.

As to who should have it done, it makes sense to me that anyone approaching middle age would be a candidate for it. Autopsies of US soldiers killed during the Korean War showed atherosclerotic plaques in the arteries of young men in their 20’s. Based on this it seems reasonable that the test could even be done on people in their early 20’s as a way of identifying people who may be at risk and giving them plenty of time to make the lifestyle changes needed to protect themselves.

People with metabolic syndrome which consists of the following:

  • obesity
  • abnormal blood lipid profile
  • elevated blood sugar
  • high blood pressure

are prime candidates for the PLAC test, as it is known that metabolic syndrome involves inflammation and thus raises the risk of heart disease.

The test can be done at followup intervals to verify the success of lifestyle changes and other interventions in terms of lowering the patient’s risk. While I claim no medical expertise, common sense suggests that this test be done early and the person then adapt their lifestyle, nutritional and exercise habits to mitigate this risk. That approach makes the most sense.

How to interpret the test results:

Even though the Lp-PLA2 test is much different than cholesterol screening tests, the levels are somewhat similar:

The 3 risk levels are:

Low:   under 200 ng/mL

Borderline:  200 to 235 ng/mL

High:  over 235 ng/mL.

Lp-PLA2 levels over 200 to 220 ng/mL indicate a very high risk of endothelial damage which in turn presents a very high risk of atherosclerosis.

Medical Interventions:

The PLAC test can be used to identify the magnitude of risk and also to determine how well the treatments used to combat it are working. This is why followup tests are important.

Statin drugs are said to provide a 20-30% reduction in Lp-PLA2 levels. The risk to benefit ration of statins is something you will have to discuss with your doctor.

Niacin used in combination with statins is reported to provide an additional 5 to 20% further reduction of the Lp-PLA2 enzyme.

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors are also reported to lower Lp-PLA2 levels, and medical scientists have speculated that the effectiveness of all cardiovascular drugs may actually depend on their ability to successfully lower Lp-PLA2 levels

Niacin and omega 3 fatty acids (fish oil) also show an ability to reduce levels of Lp-PLA2.

Tumeric spice (also called circumin) has been found to reduce a form of phospholipase in animals, and thus may be of value to humans in reducing Lp-PLA2 levels, but the study results are not in on this yet. My guess is however that turmeric is most probably of value in human as well.

Conclusion:

Since heart disease is the nation’s number one killer, preventing it is vitally important to a long and health life. Medical screening tests such as blood pressure and cholesterol are not enough to accurately predict who is a risk for a heart attack or stroke.

The PLAC test is relatively inexpensive, non invasive, and very accurate in predicting who is at high risk for a sudden cardiac event like a heart attack or stroke. It really represents a cutting edge approach to identifying people at high risk and helping them make the changes that can save their lives.

By – Eve Pierce

Heart disease is a huge concern in the US at present. On average, 600,000 people per year die in this country as a result or to put it more starkly, 1 in 4 per annum; a quarter of the country’s annual deaths.

healthy-heartIt is America’s most significant killer and incidences of the condition are on the rise. But, for many, the facts of heart disease are shrouded in mystery. What exactly causes it? Is there any way it can it be avoided? Are the causes obvious, or are there causes that are lesser known?

And most importantly; what can be done in terms of lifestyle and dietary change, to ensure that the illness is avoided? For those seeking to promote longevity in their lives, it is vital to address these issues, in order to maintain a healthy heart and to live a long and fulfilling life.

What is Heart Disease?

Considering how often the phrase is used in society, it is often one of the most misunderstood medical terms. Heart disease does not simply refer to heart attack (though coronary disease still remains the most common; killing on average, 385,000 people per annum).

It can refer to a whole range of conditions affecting the heart, including heart rhythm problems and infections. Alarmingly, few Americans are aware of the symptoms; which is a contributing factor to the high rate of death among sufferers. Symptoms include:

  •     Shortness of breath.
  •     Pain in the upper body, particularly in the arms, neck, back or upper stomach.
  •     Cold sweats, dizziness or nausea.
  •     Chest pain.

It is a good idea to be aware of the symptoms, but a far better idea is to be aware of the preventative measures that can be taken to ensure that heart disease never occurs.

Causes of Heart Disease

As might be expected, major contributory factors are diet and lifestyle. A major cause of heart disease has been attributed to foods that are high in polyunsaturated oils and processed carbohydrates; foods which are still sadly all too prevalent in the US. In addition to this, food that is high in processed salt content, and trans fats are considered to be large contributors to heart disease.

Exercise (or lack of) is also a considerable factor, as is smoking. However, there are some lesser known and rarer causes; such as spasms of the arteries caused by certain drugs and medications, trauma to the chest and even other diseases, such as Kawasaki disease.

Recent research has also uncovered other interesting suggestions of lesser known causes, such as the link between cardiovascular disease and baldness in males. However, all experts agree that, with appropriate adjustments to lifestyle and eating habits, heart disease can be avoided by a significant proportion of the US population.

How to Avoid Heart Disease and Promote Longevity

When making lifestyle changes, sometimes it can be difficult to know where to start. When making plans to change your way of living to avoid heart disease, an excellent place to start is with diet. Avoid fried foods and anything that contains trans fats. Start cutting down on processed table salt, which can cause problems for those people with elevated blood pressure

Avoid adding unnecessary amounts of salt to your cooking and avoid eating heavily salted products, such as potato chips and fries. When considering introducing exercise into your life, aim for little and often, at the start, rather than less frequently but more intensively. When you become more fit, you can increase the intensity of your exercise as appropriate.

Experts recommend taking a brisk walk for ten minutes, three times a day; at least five days of the week. Sometimes, introducing this can be as simple as opting to walk to the local store rather than drive there; or choosing to walk the dog three times a day, rather than once. If you are a smoker, try quitting (smokefree.gov has great tips to get you started) and it is also advised to cut down on alcoholic intake.

Healthy Heart; Happy Head

Focus on developing a positive attitude when changing your lifestyle for the better. For those who are used to viewing exercise as unpleasant and fast food and candy as a ‘treat’, having the willpower to make the changes can be tough. Rather than focusing on what you’re missing, think forwards and visualize where you want to be in the future; fit, healthy and heart disease free.

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