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High Cholesterol:
Putting Things in Perspective

By Don Bennett, DAS

Most people either have normal cholesterol levels, or their cholesterol is "high". If you have normal cholesterol levels, it doesn't mean you have a clean bill of health. Many people who have normal cholesterol levels have heart disease, fatal heart attacks, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and other degenerative diseases.

If you have high cholesterol, it isn't the only health problem you have. This is because high cholesterol is usually due to a dietary intake of cholesterol, which means there's accompanying amounts of saturated fat, hormones, and damaged animal protein. Yes, we need cholesterol, but our body manufactures all that we need; we aren't designed to deal with getting exogenous (from the outside) cholesterol (the pharmaceutical industry would have you believe that high cholesterol is the fault of your genetics; this is a tactic to sell meds). The abundance of Coronary Artery Disease in this country is caused by unhealthy diets; diets containing cholesterol. But the container of milk in your fridge implies that it is okay to consume cholesterol. Under the "Nutrition Facts" section it says, "Cholesterol, amount per one cup serving, 3% of Daily Value". The fine print tells you the Percent of Daily Value is based on a 2,000 calorie diet, and "Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your caloric needs". Doesn't all this suggest to you that some consumed cholesterol is okay, as long is it remains within your "Daily Value"? If you're not designed to consume cholesterol, the information on the side of dairy product containers would be misleading wouldn't it?

If your cholesterol is high due to dietary reasons, your diet is affecting you in ways other than just an elevated cholesterol level. If you use cholesterol lowering medications to bring down those high levels, you are bringing them down in an unnatural manner, meaning that the natural way to bring down elevated levels is to discover why they are elevated in the first place, and deal with the cause… and the cause is not because you are suffering from a cholesterol-lowering drug deficiency. But the medical/pharmaceutical industry feels that the best way to deal with high cholesterol is not to stop eating it, but to give you drugs that inhibit your body's cholesterol manufacturing ability (statin drugs), this way you can continue to eat things that contain cholesterol and have a normal level. But the problem is, these things cause other health-damaging conditions as well.

If indeed your elevated cholesterol level is due to your diet, and you use cholesterol lowering drugs to lower the level, you may feel better about your health, but the health-damaging effects from your diet are still there. And high serum cholesterol really isn't the problem anyway. A high level was thought to be a good marker of poor cardiovascular health. Today it is beginning to catch on that your serum homocysteine level is a much better marker of cardiovascular health than your cholesterol levels. In my opinion (and in the opinion of those far more educated in these matters than I), serum homocysteine should be part of the "basic panel" of blood tests given routinely during checkups (and certainly when people present themselves to a doctor with any kind of health issue).

Homocysteine is an amino acid found in the blood that's important for normal metabolism. The body maintains safe levels of homocysteine by converting excess amounts to a beneficial amino acid. Folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12 play an essential role in this process, however, this conversion system lags when there's a shortage of these nutrients, allowing homocysteine levels to become dangerously elevated, especially if you consume cholesterol (by eating animal products). A chronically high homocysteine level damages the lining of artery walls, causing them to become thickened, inelastic, and lined with plaque (of which cholesterol is a component). Over time, this condition can lead to a heart attack or stroke. A normal homocysteine level is around eight. If yours is 20, you have four times the risk of a fatal heart attack during the next five years when compared to someone with a normal level. To say that this is statistically significant is an understatement.

If you want some meaningful information from your cholesterol test, look at the ratio of HDL to LDL. The goal is to keep that ratio above 0.3, with the ideal being above 0.4

You'll probably have to do the math yourself because most lab results only show the ratio of Total Cholesterol to HDL, and since you can be perfectly healthy with a "high" Total Cholesterol, that ratio is not as meaningful as the HDL/LDL ratio.

For example, if a person has an HDL of 50 and an LDL of 150, the HDL/LDL ratio would be 0.33

I mentioned above that your blood level of cholesterol really isn't the problem, it's the cholesterol that has become part of the cement-like substance that lines your arteries that's going to cause trouble. But that's one of cholesterol's jobs, to act as a type of Band-Aid to protect a damaged area of your artery while the area heals. But if you insult your body daily with things that end up in your bloodstream that damage your arteries, there'll be a proportional amount of repair work going on. And over time, this excessive repairing can constrict blood flow. And that's the problem!

Now let's look at the real villain in heart disease.

Over 80% of men in the U.S. by age 58 have Coronary Artery Disease which can be found by an angiogram, and over half with a cholesterol level of 230 have at least one coronary artery already closed by 50% or more. But Coronary Artery Disease is not very deadly - the overall risk of death for people with affected arteries is less than two percent per year, untreated. The blockages formed partly by cholesterol are partial obstructions to heart blood flow, and are not the life-threatening problem. Big blockages rarely close down the arteries, and almost never cause heart attacks. The real villains in heart disease, according to Dr. John McDougall, are "tiny sores (volatile plaques) which explode inside your arteries, suddenly forming an occluding blood clot. Fortunately, because the lesions are recently formed, soft, and active, this deadly side of heart disease is also easily amenable to simple methods." A healthy diet can very quickly subdue these little volatile plaque time bombs, and spare you from unnecessary suffering and possible premature death. But how does the medical field suggest dealing with arterial plaque? Adjust your diet so the body can remove the blockages itself (which it can do)? No. Their answer is an angioplasty! Let's simply squish the relatively soft blockage with a balloon, thus opening up your artery. And when more plaque accumulates at that spot causing another blockage (which it surely will if you don't modify your diet), we'll squish it again. Brilliant. Now instead of a soft, easy-for-the-body-to-remove mass, there's a hard, difficult-for-the-body-to-remove mass. And only a few angioplasties can be done before you need bypass surgery.

Statin drugs deal with a symptom, high cholesterol, not the underlying cause of the high cholesterol. Eighty-five percent of the people who die from heart attacks have normal cholesterol levels thanks in large part to statin drugs.

Many people's recent attempts at weight loss via the low carb type diets (Atkins, Zone, South Beach, etc) only add to the cardiovascular system's burdens. A diet high in fat and/or protein is a recipe for disaster.

What can you do when bombarded with potential health misinformation? If you care about your health, question everything you're told (including this article). Get truthful facts. An industry's "facts" only serve the industry. And shame on those authors who sugar-coat information or cherry pick what information they'll share with you because it will sell more books.

So as you can see, there's more to the cholesterol issue than most people are aware. And the same thinking applies to high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, etc. Treat health care as you would any other purchase; be a smart shopper and an educated consumer.

Click here for the article, When is Normal Cholesterol Not Normal?

Click here to see why the low-carb high-protein (high-fat) diets are unhealthy

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