Every time we talk about leading causes of death, we have to start with heart disease. We are trained to believe that it is high cholesterol diet that brings about heart disease, but in reality cholesterol is very important for ones health.
Cholesterol is one of the most common building material in the human body. So common that the liver functions to produce 90% of our body’s cholesterol and only the remaining 10% comes from our diet. Our brain is 50% cholesterol, our nerves are covered in cholesterol and need its presence to conduct signals. Cholesterol is also what all steroid hormones are made of. Even Vitamin D is made from cholesterol and we are all deficient in Vitamin D. I believe we all need balanced estrogen, testosterone, cortisone, etc. and since these hormones are dependent on cholesterol I firmly support good cholesterol levels for my patients.
So what damages the blood vessels? The answer is inflammation that comes from free-radicals flowing in the blood stream stripping cells off the inner lining of the blood vessels. This process is called oxidation. Free-radicals come from cigarette smoking, pollution, trans-fats, toxins from plastics & cleaning products, etc. Anti-oxidants neutralize free radicals and save the tissue. That's why the term "anti-oxidant" became a trend and we have all heard about the benefits of kale, açai, blueberries, matcha, goji berries, & so on. Once the inner lining is damaged, inflammatory process initiates the repair recruiting fibroblasts or scar tissue cells. Scar tissue is rough in texture and to prevent blood from bumping into it and forming a clot, our body uses cholesterol to smooth it down. Over time scar tissue calcifies and hardens the arteries.
Statin drugs, which are used to reduce cholesterol, generate about 29 billion dollars each year in sales in U.S. But do they really prevent heart attacks? What seems to be happening in the U.S. is an epidemic of "metabolic syndrome". Metabolic syndrome occurs when you burn less calories than you consume. So if one's thyroid levels are low, their metabolism slows down, and, as a result, they will not burn calories at the optimal level. If one consumes too much sweet or fatty foods and does not exercise, their intake is considered high. This imbalance in ones body causes a series of problems, such as:
Elevated blood cholesterol
Elevated blood sugar
High blood pressure
Measures to take:
Outside of a healthy diet, exercising and engaging in de-stressing activities (yes, cortisol increases demand for cholesterol and raises the levels) here are a few useful tips:
Calculate your waist to hip ratio. Waist inch/hip inch = x. Waist is measured right below your 12th free rib (above the navel), hips are measured from the widest bone mark. X>0.9 in men & X>0.85 in women defined as abdominal obesity and increases cardiac risk.
Take CoQ10 if you're on statins. CoQ10 is an enzyme that uses fat and oxygen to produce energy. Statins block CoQ10 production and cause muscle weakness including the heart.