Every day, many people died or disabled because of heart attacks and strokes who never saw them coming . They believed their cholesterol levels were within ‘normal’ range and they were safe.
High cholesterol is not a disease. Cholesterol does not CAUSE heart disease, it is merely a marker– and one marker out of many. Having ‘normal’ or even ‘low’ cholesterol levels does not eliminate your risk of heart attack or stroke. In fact, 75 per cent of heart attack victims have NORMAL levels of cholesterol.
So why is cholesterol made out to be the arch villain that condemns thousands of people to a heart attack or stroke each year?
The answer lies in the corporate greed of the multi-billion pound cholesterol-lowering drugs industry, which has largely influenced the medical establishment’s all-too-common mantra, that when it comes to cholesterol lower, lower, lower is the key to heart health. But not only is this not true, following this advice can be extremely harmful as cholesterol is in fact a vital component needed to keep you healthy and, more importantly, alive!
Cholesterol – the good, the bad and the ugly…
The real key to heart health is not just your overall cholesterol, it’s getting the right balance between your levels of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol and the ‘bad’ LDL type… plus there are numerous other risk factors that need to be addressed in order to ward off cardiovascular disease.
Because cholesterol doesn’t dissolve directly in your blood, it is carried round in little packages, along with fats and proteins. It is packed up in special biological cases called lipoproteins, of which there are two main types: low density lipoproteins (LDL) also known as ‘bad’ cholesterol, and high density lipoproteins (HDL) otherwise known as ‘good’ cholesterol. The reason for these labels reflects their individual functions within your body.
While LDL delivers its cargo of cholesterol throughout your body, clogging arteries as it goes, the HDL actually scavenges deposited cholesterol from your arteries and delivers it to your liver where it is broken down and eliminated safely from your body.
In addition, HDL is known to possess antioxidant activity and to help balance your body’s natural anti-inflammatory response – both of which are important for repairing damage to the lining of your arteries and for promoting cardiovascular health.
Where cholesterol is produced and its functions in body
Cholesterol is both produced by your body (within your liver) and obtained through consuming foods of animal origin such as meat, dairy products and eggs.
This soft waxy substance is present in every cell of your body where it helps produce: sex hormones and hormones made by your adrenal cortex; bile salts that help you digest fats; and, when the sun shines, vitamin D.
It also helps ensure your nerves function correctly and strengthens cell membranes. Not only that but it helps in the formation of your memories and is vital for neurological function.
The bottom line: You would quickly become very ill if you stopped producing cholesterol… and would, ultimately, die.
Cholesterol isn’t the only threat to your cardiovascular system
When it sticks to the wall of an artery, LDL cholesterol may act as a focus for the accumulation of fats, proteins and minerals, so leading to atherosclerosis (hardening of your arteries).
Yet, contrary to what most doctors and pharmaceutical companies would have you believe, high cholesterol is only one factor in this process. Pollutants, food additives and the products of metabolism can release harmful free radicals – highly reactive molecules that damage the structure of your cells, including those that line your artery walls.
Other markers that can signal an increased risk of heart attack or stroke include high homocysteine levels, high triglyceride (blood fat) levels, depleted Coenzyme Q10 stores, elevated levels of platelet-activating-factor and thromboxane AZ, and high levels of C-reactive protein (a substance produced by your liver in response to inflammation).
Each of these markers can be a red flag for heart disease risk – and when all are taken into consideration, in conjunction with total cholesterol and HDL/LDL ratio (the amount of LDL that is present indicates the amount of cholesterol circulating in your bloodstream and the amount of HDL shows how well your body is able to neutralise cholesterol), they can provide much clearer warning signs before it’s too late. A healthy person should have low levels of LDL and high levels of HDL. If both are low or both are high, your heart health remains at risk.
Don’t risk the deadly side effects of statin drugs
Mainstream medicine’s response to the problem has involved the widespread prescription of statin drugs – which block the production of cholesterol in your liver – to all those at risk of developing heart disease. One in three people over the age of 45 in the UK currently take statins – that’s a staggering 7 million people.
What’s more, many people with NORMAL cholesterol levels are being pressurised to take statins by their doctors as a preventative measure…. despite the fact that the majority of heart attack victims have normal levels of cholesterol! So this number is likely to grow rapidly over the next 10 years.
This is extremely worrying as statins can cause a number of worrying side effects including headaches, nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhoea and muscle pain. In addition, recent studies have revealed that their use is associated with sleep disturbances, decreased insulin sensitivity, depression, memory loss and erectile dysfunction.
Warning: Low cholesterol is bad for your health
In addition to their harmful side effects, statin drugs can push your cholesterol levels too low. When your cholesterol levels go too low, a host of negative things happen in your body:
- Low levels implicated in memory loss and dementia.
- Increases your risk of depression.
- May increase the risk of suicidal thoughts.
- May lead to violent behaviour and aggression.
- Increases your risk of cancer and Parkinson’s.
- Upsets hormone levels.
Avoid refined sugar – the real culprit behind ‘bad’ cholesterol
A fail-safe way of keeping LDL low and HDL high is to take plenty of exercise such as aerobics, swimming, brisk walking and weight-lifting. Steps should also be taken to reduce stress, stop smoking, follow a healthy diet and lose any excess weight, and only drink alcohol in moderation.
Taking these measures in addition to following a diet that is low in saturated fat and carbohydrates can help maintain low cholesterol levels.While saturated fat is bad for your heart, unsaturated fat can be beneficial as it possesses anti-inflammatory properties that help counteract inflammation in your arteries, which causes damage.
Improve blood flow inside your arteries and lower your cholesterol without drugs
As well as making lifestyle changes like those already mentioned, the following measures can also help to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease:
Co-enzyme Q-10 (CoQ10) – We consider CoQ10 to be the number one heart nutrient. It is made naturally by your body and is essential to practically every one of your important functions. To boost your levels, take COQ10 in supplement form. However, be sure to take it in a form called ubiquinol – most CoQ10 supplements contain a cheaper form of the enzyme called ubiquinone instead, which is extremely difficult for your body to absorb and therefore get the full benefits from. Take 100 to 200mg a day with meals.
Curcumin (turmeric root) – A member of the ginger family, this plant has been used for thousands of years as a general health booster and for treating heart problems. Curcumin helps your liver eliminate any excess cholesterol and researchers have found that it specifically increases HDL levels and reduces LDL.
Another therapeutic action linked to curcumin is that it helps keep your blood thin, which prevents blood clots from forming in your arteries and lowers your risk of having a heart attack. The recommended dosage for curcumin is 900 mg taken once or twice a day.
Gugulipid (commiphora mukul) – Commiphora is a tree that grows in India and produces a resin called gugulipid.
In a study performed by Indian scientists, 125 patients suffering from high cholesterol were treated with gugulipid for several weeks. The results showed that there was an 11 per cent drop in the levels of cholesterol in the patients’ blood, and a 60 per cent increase in HDL levels. The recommended dosage for gugulipid is 140 mg taken once or twice a day.
Garlic is a good alternative to aspirin, as it helps thin your blood without causing the drug’s harmful side-effects. It is also able to lower high cholesterol, prevent blood clots from forming and generally improve the health of your arteries. The recommended dosage is 1,000mg a day.
The minerals selenium (15mg a day) and zinc (15mg a day) help boost garlic’s blood-thinning properties and also act as powerful antioxidants preventing free radical damage inside your arteries.
Fibre: A high fibre diet is often recommended. Fibre helps lower cholesterol in a similar way to curcumin, by preventing it from passing from your bowel to the rest of your body. Raw salad leaves, broccoli and ‘GG-Bran’ crispbreads are suitable low-carbohydrate sources of fibre.
However, the problem with consuming a lot of fibre is that it can cause nausea, abdominal bloating and indigestion. Fortunately certain supplements, such as chitosan, have been found to provide the same cholesterol-lowering benefits as fibre but without its harsh side-effects. The recommended dosage for chitosan is three 500mg capsules taken twice a day.
Niacin: Also known as vitamin B3, niacin works by reducing levels of LDL. It also reduces other substances that are detrimental to heart health such as triglycerides – these are blood fats that, like cholesterol, contribute to your arteries becoming blocked.
You should be aware that niacin must be taken at a high dose in order to be effective. However, high amounts can cause facial flushing (a sudden redness and hot sensation in the face). The recommended dosage is 1,000mg up to three times a day. If you do experience facial flushing then lowering the dose to approximately half or a third of the recommended amount should help clear the problem up while still remaining effective.
Soya: A soya-rich diet has been found to help reduce cholesterol and has now been approved by the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as an effective way to lower heart disease. It works in a variety of ways. Apart from lowering cholesterol and increasing HDL levels, it also prevents blood clots from forming within the arteries. In addition, it acts as an antioxidant, which means that it helps prevent toxic damage from
occurring inside your arteries. To benefit from soy include only fermented soy products in your diet.
Fish oils reduce your risk of blood clots, lower abnormally high triglycerides, increase HDL cholesterol and decrease abnormally high levels of fibrinogen (another independent cardiovascular risk factor), and reduce your risk of ‘re-stenosis’ (reclogging) of your coronary arteries. They also lower blood pressure and keep your arteries supple.
Pantethine, a derivative of pantothenic acid, plays a pivotal role in cholesterol metabolism. In one study, 900 mg a day caused a 32 per cent drop in blood fats and a 21 per cent drop in LDL, while HDL levels rose by 23 per cent (Clinical Therapeutics 8(5):537-45, 1986). Take 500 to
1,000 mg a day.
Lower your homocysteine levels to protect your blood vessels from damage
As already mentioned, another serious threat to your cardiovascular health is high levels of homocysteine – an amino acid that promotes the build-up of plaque on your blood vessel walls, increasing your risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Studies have revealed that folic acid, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6 are able to prevent homocysteine from causing arterial damage by transforming it into a harmless substance called methionine in your body (JAMA 2002; 288:973- 979; Clin Nutr. 2005: 24(2):244-9). The recommended dosage for folic acid is 400 mg taken twice a day, together with 1,000mcg of vitamin B12 and 50mg of Vitamin B6 a day.
Studies have shown that TMG (Tri-Methyl- Glycine) also called betaine, which is found in sugar beets, fish and legumes is able to bind to homocysteine and inactivate it (Olthof MR, Verhoef P. Curr Drug Metab. 2005 Feb;6(1):15-22). The recommended dosage for TMG is 500mg a day.
Take steps to reduce inflammation – a more reliable predictor of heart problems than cholesterol
C-reactive protein (CRP) a substance produced by your liver in response to inflammation is considered by many medical experts to be a far more
reliable marker for cardiovascular complications than cholesterol levels. This is because atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries) requires inflammation to take place, so if CRP is elevated the stage is set for potential heart problems.
Omega 3 fatty acids, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in particular, have been found to help lower CRP in addition to improving blood flow in the arteries and preventing blood clots (Journal of Nutrition, July 2004; Circulation. 2004 Apr 6;109(13):1609-14). Better still, omega 3 fatty acids have also been found to lower high triglyceride (blood fat) levels, which are another well-known cardiovascular disease risk factor.
As well as eating plenty of oily fish like salmon, mackerel and herring, you can increase your intake of omega 3 fatty acids by consuming more
walnuts, flaxseed oil and spinach. Alternatively, you can take omega 3 fatty acids in supplement form in a product called Eskimo 3 – the recommended dosage is three 600mg capsules with meals one to three times a day.