The Myth of High Cholesterol And Cardiovascular Disease?

Let’s start this post discussing a brief history of how the notion of high cholesterol was thought to be related to an increased risk of heart disease.  So, the story dates back to a famous study (Framingham study) that dates to the 1960s led by Drs. Thomas Dawber and William Kannel.

cholesterol cartoonIn this study, the researchers determined that a diet high in cholesterol and or saturated fat had a negative effect on the health of the heart. The blood level of cholesterol (what your lab test says about your cholesterol number) is based on this assumption.

Not only that, but it has changed over time, but just in terms of the overall level of total cholesterol. (ie. cholesterol <200 mg/dL) You can even check main medical websites today (2013) and see this same information regurgitated over and over.

And, from this one study, our western system of health care’s recommendations for dietary cholesterol regarding heart health was born…..and it hasn’t changed since!

Until now…

Watch This Video

This is Part I, watch Parts II and III also

The more current understanding regarding cholesterol and saturated fat is much different. It is very well understood in current modern research and more progressive cardiology practice that total cholesterol is not really indicative of heart health.

In fact, it has even been demonstrated that in many cases, people with the highest levels of cholesterol actually live LONGER than those with lower levels. So, the most current understanding is that of the HDL and LDL that we’re all familiar with, there is an even greater distinction to be made.

Without getting too technical, let’s get a little foundational understanding on cholesterol.

The two different classes of cholesterol refer to how they are ‘packaged’ in order to travel through the blood stream. These are the HDL and LDL names that you are familiar with; they act as the carrier molecules that help cholesterol get to where it needs to go in your body.

This is important: we need to have cholesterol in our blood.

Cholesterol is necessary for the production of hormones in our body, brain development (especially in children), cell wall formation and health, immune health, vitamin absorption and other very important functions for vital health. Cholesterol is NOT bad. In fact, about 25% of where we get cholesterol comes from diet and 75% is made from within your body. Of the 75% made within your body, 30% is made by your liver and 70% is made in other cells.

HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is understood to be the ‘good’ cholesterol and LDL (low-density lipoprotein) is thought of as the ‘bad’ cholesterol BUT, this isn’t the whole story.

LDL is not ALL bad, there are various size particles (called patterns) of LDL. Of these, the larger particles (pattern A) are thought to be good. The A/B particles are okay, but it is the pattern B, the smallest LDL molecules that are of consequence in the arterial wall.

But, here is the more enlightening part…

It isn’t the cholesterol that appears to be the problem at all, but rather inflammation that leads to plaque build up and coronary artery and cardiovascular disease (CVD). Here is where the current information gets a little more murky. Inflammation appears to lead to a process whereby those smaller pattern B LDL of cholesterol can become implanted in the cell walls and lead to the plaques, which are related to atherosclerosis.

This much is agreed upon by the leaders in this newer cardiology movement, total cholesterol measurement is of little consequence and has little predictive value of CVD. Further, cholesterol in the diet has little effect on changing the risk factor for CVD. In fact, adding in some good saturated fats, like coconut oil and even grass fed organic butter – yes, butter – can be good for you!

Diet, exercise and other lifestyle factors (like reducing stress levels with chiropractic care, for example) can not only reduce inflammation in the body but some research is also showing it can help to change the size of the LDL patterns from B to  A!

What About Statin Drugs?

Well, the research is showing that statins aren’t the miracle they were cracked up to be. In fact, there are some major side effects as the cardiologist in the Dr. Oz clip above points out: increased cases of diabetes, increased risk for cancer. You’ll hear him point out that there is only a small sub-set of people; middle-aged men, with low HDL and coronary artery disease benefit some from these drugs. And, he almost universally doesn’t prescribe them to his female patients.

This post is getting really long, so I’ll cut if off there. If you should have any questions regarding this topic or how a holistic chiropractic approach can assist you in your health journey, please feel free to contact us today.

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