Cholesterol disease is called cholesterolemia or hyper cholesterol, both of which mean the presence of elevated amounts of cholesterol in the blood.
What is cholesterol and why do you need it?
Your body needs cholesterol. That’s why your liver makes it. This soft, waxy substance is an integral part of all your cell membranes, and it’s also the precursor (the raw material) your body uses to make your steroid hormones — one of which is vitamin D. It also helps produce bile acids that help you to digest fat, and it’s involved in the formation of memories and is vital for your neurological function.
Since cholesterol is a fat, it is not water soluble (meaning it doesn’t dissolve in water); therefore it can’t dissolve in your blood. That means that special particles called lipoproteins (proteins surrounding the lipid/fat) move this soft, waxy substance from place to place. That’s important because your body needs cholesterol to build cell walls, make hormones, and perform other important jobs.
There are two main types of lipoproteins, low-density (LDL) and high-density (HDL).
Low density lipoprotein (LDL) is the main cholesterol carrier. It distributes the cholesterol throughout your body to all your cells.
High density lipoproteins (HDL) are known as the “good” cholesterol because they carry unnecessary LDL cholesterol away from your arteries to your liver, where it is eliminated from the body.
LDL cholesterol has another function, which is to mend weakened or leaking artery walls by “plastering” over them. Problems occur when the “plaster” gets calcified, hardens and your vessel walls are no longer wide and flexible. This is called atherosclerosis.
If an artery becomes reduced in size because of calcified plaque and a clot comes along, blockage occurs and your heart stops functioning (a heart attack) for lack of blood.
In general, it is considered wise to have your blood checked at least annually so you know where you stand. LDL cholesterol of 200 or less is considered good, with some experts recommending that it be 150 or less. HDL cholesterol of 50 or better is considered good. The higher the better.
What does high cholesterol mean to you?
If you have increased levels of cholesterol, it is at least in part because of increased inflammation in your body. The cholesterol is there to help your body heal and repair.
It is interesting to note that drugs called statins have been used to reduce cholesterol for the purpose of reducing heart attack risk, but it may well be that those drugs reduce inflammation, which in turn is the reason for their success.
Is cholesterol the villain you’ve been told it is?
According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, “In the United States and many other countries, the demonization of cholesterol is very much engrained in most people’s minds. But this is a harmful myth that I have been trying to set the record straight on for more than a decade.”
He points out that it’s important to realize that there’s a major difference between average and healthy cholesterol levels. It’s very similar to what he is now seeing with vitamin D levels.
In today’s world, with respect to cholesterol, ever lower levels of cholesterol levels are being recommended, primarily due to the significant influence of the drug industry. Why? It’s either because very low levels of cholesterol are necessary for health or because cholesterol lowering drugs (statins) now generate profits to the tune of tens of billions of dollars a year.
Before 2004, a 130 LDL cholesterol level was considered healthy. The updated guidelines, however, recommended levels of less than 100, or even less than 70 for patients at very high risk.
In order to achieve these low targets, you typically need to take multiple cholesterol-lowering drugs. So the guidelines instantly increased the market for these dangerous drugs.
According to Mercola, “Please understand that you have not been told the whole truth about cholesterol. Rather what you’re getting from most conventional health practitioners is little more than cleverly distorted marketing scams. Lower is NOT always better when it comes to cholesterol. And, if your levels are too low, it could actually pose a serious health risk in and of itself.”
The Risks of Low Cholesterol
Dr. Mercola further states, “Low cholesterol has its own set of health risks. It’s been linked to a variety of neurological problems, including memory loss, but it also:
- Increases your risk of depression
- Can increase your risk of suicide
- May lead to violent behavior and aggression
- Increase your risk of cancer and Parkinson’s disease “
Your cholesterol/HDL ratio is a potent heart disease risk factor
Dr. Mercola makes this challenging statement, “Personally, I believe anything above 330 is likely too high. But another powerful way to determine if you’re at risk from abnormal cholesterol metabolism is to check your ratio of HDL, or “good” cholesterol, and your total cholesterol. Your Cholesterol/HDL ratio is a potent heart disease risk factor.
Simply divide your HDL level by your cholesterol. That ratio should be below 4 to 1. Typically, the lower the ratio the better, as there are no known side effects of having too much HDL cholesterol.”
Does eating cholesterol raise your blood cholesterol level?
Probably not. Your liver produces most of the cholesterol that your body needs. That is true of all mammals. So, if you eat meat or dairy you consume more cholesterol. If your body if functioning well, then it will cut back on its own production to compensate for the cholesterol intake.
Eating saturated fat does increase cholesterol and makes your arteries stiff
What will increase your cholesterol is intake of saturated fats. All meat has saturated fat. However, when our ancestors were hunter-gatherers, the animals they killed got a lot of exercise, consumed greens, and had very little fat. In today’s world, cattle for example will spend their entire lives in a pen and are fed grain and possibly growth hormones. They get no exercise, and their meat is filled with fat and the hormones are passed along to you. Not healthy.
A recent study showed that a high-fat meal – say 50 grams with 2/3 saturated fat- makes your arteries up to 27% less elastic within 6 hours. If your arteries can’t stretch when blood pumps through them, it places a burden on your heart.
The solution – Beat bad cholesterol with good nutrition
Eat healthy. Please read the remaining articles in the Cholesterol and Nutrition sections for our recommendations.
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