Cholesterol: What is it? Part 2

Last week, I wrote about cholesterol and some of the basics. If you missed it, click here to catch up.

The first post touched on some of the basics of cholesterol and why it's needed in the body. In Cholesterol: What is it? Part 2, I'll touch on a couple of the myths associated with cholesterol by pointing out some myths that are widely held with regard to eating and your cholesterol levels. But first, let's take a look at statin drugs:

 Statin Therapy to Reduce Cholesterol:  It is estimated that the statin drug industry is bringing in well over $30 billion per year. This is climbing as more and more people, even kids, are being prescribed this medication. Why are they used? Statin drugs are used to block the pathway of cholesterol production in the liver. The only problem is there are several other pathways that are blocked as well. One of them is CoQ10. CoQ10 is a hugely important nutrient for your immune system AND heart health. CoQ10 is essential for maintaining heart health. So why are we encouraged to take something that blocks this nutrient from doing it's job? Another concern is the deposition of Calcium in our arteries instead of our bones. When our arteries become blocked with calcium, bad things happen! It is now known that another nutrient, Vitamin K, in the right form should be taken as well as CoQ10 if taking a statin. This helps the calcium to be deposited in the bones and not the arteries. What is surprising to me (even though I'm not a doctor), is these drugs are now becoming recommended across the board to those with chronic diseases such as diabetes regardless of their cholesterol levels. This is because they are at greater risk of having heart disease, which in my humble opinion is an inflammation problem versus a cholesterol problem. I've had clients in this category complain of brain fog and joint pain but had NO elevated cholesterol at all.

 Myth 1: Eating Saturated Fat Raises Cholesterol

There is a study called the Framingham Heart Study. This followed 15,000 people over 3 generations. That's a pretty great sample size. I won't go into all the statistics with this, but it showed that dietary intake of cholesterol had no correlation to heart disease. It seems there are a lot of politics behind some of these misguided beliefs and with the estimated 45 million people that will be on statin medications in 2015, it begs the question: If we are recommended to eat low fat and a whole grain diet and the food manufacturers are making these products readily available, why do we need these meds? Eating based on those recommendations should take care of that "need." The typical American diet that most follow is not actually healthy. Also, I'd like to point out, that most doctors don't have much for nutrition education. They have years of education but not in nutrition.

 Myth 2: Heart Disease is caused by High Cholesterol

High cholesterol is often present in heart disease. But it seems to be there to try and fix the problem (which is actually inflammation). It's akin to the firefighter (cholesterol) trying to put out a fire (inflammation) and is told to go home before the fire is put out. There is also evidence that sometimes statin therapies actually encourage deposition of calcium in the arteries which causes blockage and then subsequent negative consequences. Another finding is that 50% of all people who have had heart attacks actually have NORMAL cholesterol levels. Those who have familial high cholesterol and have a family history of heart disease and cardiac events at an early age may be exceptions to this, however.

So how do you shut down this inflammation so that we can reduce the production of cholesterol? The simplest thing to do is to start with your food, of course. Here are 4 simple steps to get you going. 

  1. Stop eating out of a box, using quick fixes and running through the drive thru. Those prepackaged and highly processed foods keep inflammation burning like crazy! 
  2. Increase your intake of colorful, whole foods. Think fruits and vegetables but take them in in their whole food form as much as possible. They are full of antioxidants which tamps that inflammation down. Eat a rainbow of colors and you'll be healthier in so many ways including your cholesterol levels. 
  3. Manage your stress by incorporating calming-types of exercise into your routine. You don't have to do high intensity training all the time to be healthy, especially if you struggle with any underlying health conditions. 
  4. Balance your blood sugar by keeping to that whole food eating and making sure to get your proteins, fats and carbohydrates in at each meal and/or snack. 

If you need help with getting on track with the above tips in helping you reduce inflammation, download the free 7 Day meal plan to get you started. 

 

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