Today’s article is pretty long. But it tackles a very important issue that touches most of us and is becoming very controversial (to say the least) both among doctors and natural researchers:
“Is the high cholesterol danger reality or just a myth from the pharmaceutical companies to squeeze out literally hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars?”
So please check it out and make your comments at the end of this page.
You can’t read about health issues for long before running into the word “cholesterol”.
And in more cases than not, this word is used in a very negative connection blaming high cholesterol for anything regarding heart and arterial health.
If, however, you were to dig deeper into the issue, you’ll soon hear another opinion about cholesterol. Several books have been written asserting the “Cholesterol Myth” claiming that high cholesterol has no negative effects on your health. According to those voices this myth was invented by the pharmaceutical companies to be able to sell billions of dollars of useless drugs.
Everyone agrees that not all cholesterol is created even. There is so called “good cholesterol” and “bad cholesterol” and the third “type of cholesterol”. Then there is this cholesterol number and that cholesterol number and you want this one high and that one low.
After a while of researching, you’ll probably feel dizzy as a dog chasing his own tail.
So I hope today I’ll be able to clarify in plain English what exactly cholesterol is and the functional and dysfunctional roles it may play in the human body.
You see, things are not always as they seem…
Cholesterol is a waxy fat-like essence that exists in every single cell in your body and is essential for our survival.
The main purpose of cholesterol is to strengthen and protect the cell membranes. Without it, our cells would collapse or be totally unprotected from the outside world. You could think about it as border control of the cell; deciding whom to let in and out.
As a structural developer, cholesterol also has the role of bandaging injured arteries that may crack for various reasons, preventing them from exploding or leaking. This function is the beginning of a plaque problem I’ll discuss in a second.
Cholesterol also creates various hormones, helps convert sunlight into vitamin D and substances to improve digestion just to name a few of many functions.
Since no cell can survive without cholesterol, it needs to be delivered from the liver (where it’s produced) throughout the body via the blood stream in the arteries. And then again from the cells back to liver for recycling.
Now you may have heard about so called “bad cholesterol” (LDL) and “good cholesterol” (HDL). The fact is, there is only one type of cholesterol.
You see, cholesterol is delivered through out the blood stream in vehicles that are made up of fat on the inside but protein on the outside. And it’s the vehicle that varies, not the cholesterol itself. Just like sometimes people use trucks and other times cars, cholesterol chooses different vehicles for different purposes.
The LDL vehicle (I’ll refer to it as LDL cholesterol from now on) delivers cholesterol from the liver throughout the body whereas the HDL vehicle (HDL cholesterol) clears the cholesterol from the cells back to the liver.
If you’ve enough HDL, it also helps remove cholesterol plaque build up in your arteries.
Both are equally important. We couldn’t live without either one of those cholesterol types. If we didn’t have any LDL (bad cholesterol), none of the much-needed cholesterol would be delivered to our cells. And without the HDL (good cholesterol), the cholesterol would build up in our body and clog the whole system.
In fact, cholesterol is so important to our survival that our bodies take no risk and have developed a system in the liver to create all cholesterol needed. Even more, every single cell in your body has the ability to create its own cholesterol, just in case the supply runs low.
An average person gets 75% of their cholesterol produced by the liver, whereas only 25% comes from their diet. That’s why you never hear about taking cholesterol as supplement.
The problem arises when LDL, on its delivery mission, begins to build a plaque in the heart arteries that little by little block the blood and oxygen delivery flow through them.
Finally the plaque may break lose and mostly or completely block the heart vessels, preventing the heart from pumping blood throughout the body. Sometimes part of the plaque breaks into the blood stream and shoots all the way up to the vessels infusing the brain, blocking the blood delivery and causing stroke.
In fact, plaque can build up in any artery throughout the body causing various conditions from angina to erectile dysfunction.
What I’ve explained so far is well known fact in the medical field, and nobody argues about any of this.
What both professionals and laymen are arguing about among themselves and against each other is why and how exactly the cholesterol plaque begins to build up.
For the last 30-40 years, heart health authorities have bombarded us with the slogan of lower cholesterol, lower cholesterol, lower cholesterol.
Interestingly enough, this slogan really took off in the early eighties exactly at the same time drugs companies came out with the first Statin drugs that ever since have been best selling drugs and cash cows for these companies.
Gradually, the recommended level of cholesterol in the blood has been reducing. First it was total cholesterol of 200. Then they lowered it to 180 and finally tried to push it all the way to 150.
At some point, medical authorities realized that using the total amount of cholesterol didn’t make any sense since LDL is considered bad and HDL good. So attempting to lower both bad and good cholesterol was misleading to say the least.
So then the recommendation was LDL level no higher than 100. Now I believe it stands at 70.
This goes to show that the cholesterol issue has been very inconsistent.
The reasoning behind this rally for lowering cholesterol makes sense at first glance. Since the cause of many heart attack is the build up of LDL cholesterol in the arteries, it’s obvious that lowering the amount of cholesterol in the blood stream must prevent this from happening. Right?
Well, maybe not…
More and more reliable studies are coming out indicating that lowering cholesterol level has no, or very little impact on the risk of heart attack or second heart attack.
Some studies have even indicated levels of cholesterol that are too LOW may increase risk of dying from a heart attack.
A recent Norwegian study (and I tend to put more value on European studies since they’re less likely to be influenced by pharmaceutical companies) showed that women with overall higher levels of cholesterol lived longer and had fewer heart attacks and strokes.
A study from the University of Toronto among men who had already had a heart attack showed that cholesterol had no impact on increasing the risk of second heart attack.
Numerous other studies have turned up similar results.
Not only are the claims that high cholesterol is harmful being shattered, researches have also found links between low cholesterol level and diseases such as Alzheimers, memory loss and other health problems. Note that the side effects of the most used cholesterol drugs on the market, Statin drugs, often include memory loss.
The question that old-school cholesterol authorities have also failed to answer sufficiently is why in the world would our body have this failed mechanism that by slightly raising our LDL cholesterol level (which is unlike other substances we use totally natural for the body), our system would totally self-destruct.
You see, under normal circumstances, our arteries are loaded with LDL and none of it gets stuck on the arterial walls. Why all of a sudden with a small rise in LDL does it begin to stick like flies to fly paper?
There are several new theories about this issue. The most common ones today assert that so called free radicals injure the arterial walls and cause inflammation.
To prevent the arteries from exploding, the body sends in cholesterol to patch up the damage while it heals. The more harm free radicals do, the more patching is done and more risk of overdoing it with the patching. And the more inflammation, the more risk that parts of the patch will come lose and cause heart attack or stroke.
What causes free radicals and its connection to inflammation is an issue for another article. The fact is, cholesterol will probably not affect your arteries, unless there are cracks to stick in and inflammation to bind and split it.
To prove this, lets look at a protein called C-reactive protein (CRP).
CRP is, like cholesterol, mostly created in the liver. Scientists have discovered that huge amount of this protein is released when the body detects inflammation. And now, studies are showing clear connection between CRP and the risk of heart attack and stroke.
A recent study showed that people having the upper third levels of CRP had double the risk of heart attack and stroke as those in the lower third level.
Many doctors are now testing CRP as well as cholesterol levels to determine patients risk of heart attack or stroke.
Don’t be surprised if drug companies soon come out with CRP-lowering drugs and make even more money on them than cholesterol-lowering drugs. And again, the drug companies will be wrong and the patients will suffer horrible side effects.
Because just like with high LDL cholesterol, CRP is not the root cause of the problem, but only a symptom of an underlying problem. Inflammation, and before that free radicals, (or whatever else is injuring your arterial walls) are the reason why cholesterol begins to build up in your arteries in the first place and the extra load of CRP is released.
Now at this point you may be asking yourself if all efforts to manage cholesterol are useless and have no effect on the risk of heart attack or stroke.
At the risk of confusing you further, I answer NO!
If you’ve read any of my previous articles or know my personal story about tackling deadly plaque in my blood vessel, you know that I don’t take these things lightly.
I faced death when my doctor informed me that my arteries were more than 90% blocked by cholesterol plaque. My overall blood cholesterol was over 300, whereas LDL was much too high and HDL was much too low.
Despite the fact that new studies indicate minor or no connection between cholesterol level and heart attack and stroke, there have been numerous studies indicating the opposite. So I would say the jury is still out but this is definitely a controversial issue.
And it is clear that cholesterol is the main building block of plaque in the arteries, which clearly causes heart attacks and strokes once released.
My doctor wanted me to go on Statin right away and then undergo surgery as soon as possible. But after doing some of the research I’ve made clear to you here (most of the things I learned later), I came to the conclusion that forcing my cholesterol level down with drugs wasn’t the answer.
I had to look at the underlying cause for my high cholesterol level and the blocking of my arteries.
I soon found out that the low fat diet recommended to lower cholesterol was almost useless. An average person may lower his or her cholesterol level 1-2 percent. I needed something much more dramatic.
Back then the information about inflammation, free radicals and CRP were not as well known as now. So I began my journey with two major goals:
1) Lower my LDL blood cholesterol level to stop the buildup of plaque in my heart.
2) Raise my HDL blood cholesterol level. Because HDL has long been proven to remove LDL cholesterol from the body and more importantly, remove cholesterol plaque.
Less than a month later, my overall blood cholesterol level was below 200. My LDL had drastically dropped and my HDL had risen. What’s more important, there were clear signs that the blockage in my heart was reducing and blood was flowing more easily.
Since then, my health began to improve steadily. My blood pressure is down to normal and my arteries are almost completely open. All without ever taking any drugs or undergoing surgery.
What I’ve later realized is that with my diet, workout and mindset change, I wasn’t just managing my cholesterol level. Unknowingly, I was tackling the underlying of the plaque building and my heart problems; causes such as free radicals and inflammation.
Without that, the blockage in my arteries would never have cleared. Statin drugs may force cholesterol down but they’ve never been shown to remove plaque.
You can read more about my cholesterol journey and the methods I used here…
Check this out if you want to focus on lowering blood pressure naturally…
by Scott Davis