High Cholesterol and Heart Disease
The topic of high cholesterol has always peaked my curiosity. What causes it? How come soooo many people have it? What it is in our diet that contributes to it? Is saturated fat really the enemy? Are statins really the answer? Since my initial interest a few years ago, I’ve read countless articles, listened to countless podcasts and picked my naturopath’s brain on the subject multiple times. Here are some conclusions I’ve come to make..
First of all, according to the Heart Foundation, cardiovascular diseases claim more lives than all forms of cancer combined (1)! Despite our advanced medical system, heart disease takes over 720,000 lives each year and it’s a preventable disease! Some major risk factors are high cholesterol (or, more accurately, high LDL particle number), insulin resistance, leptin resistance, metabolic syndrome and genetics.
A few thoughts on Statins:
Statins are a cholesterol lowing drug and have been found to reduce heart disease and mortality in those who are at high risk (1,2). Unfortunately, they are often prescribed to those who are not at high-risk. There are a lot of side effects when taking a statin which is why people who are not at high risk for heart disease shouldn’t necessarily be on them. Yet, doctors seem to treat them as the gold standard for preventing heart disease. Statins inhibit the body’s ability to make cholesterol and combined with most doctors’ recommendations to severely limit cholesterol intake from food, your body becomes deprived of cholesterol. Cholesterol is absolutely essential for life! It is in every cell membrane and a lot of our hormones are made out of it. Despite doctors’ continued recommendation to limit consumption of cholesterol, most of the cholesterol we consume is unable to be used by the body. Our liver makes most of the cholesterol in our blood. Additionally, if we limit our intake of cholesterol, our liver will mostly likely make more to compensate (3).
Follow the link below for some more information regarding statins..
How can we prevent heart disease?
There are many things you can do that do not involve statins to help you reduce your risk of heart disease.
-Ask your doctor to measure your LDL-P in addition to LDL cholesterol
Normal healthcare usually only test for LDL cholesterol, not the LDL particles (LDL-P). The LDL-P carry the LDL cholesterol through the blood and delivers them to the cells. The analogy you may have heard Dr. Derek use is that the LDL-P are the boats that carry the LDL Cholesterol, the cargo in the river, the blood. It is only when there are too many boats in the in river that you are at risk for heart disease. When there are too many boats ( LDL-P) in the blood, the likelihood of one of them colliding with the wall of the artery increase. It is these collisions with the artery wall that cause heart disease. The reason why only testing LDL-cholesterol can be problematic is because an individual’s LDL cholesterol could measure HIGH but their LDL particle number could be NORMAL and yet, they’ll still be prescribed a statin but there may be no real risk.
**Other markers such as Apo-B can be good indicators of LDL particle number as well.
It helps to reduce the oxidative damage in our body because even after the LDL particle collides with the artery, it is the oxidation of that molecule that causes the hardening of the wall, further buildup of plaque and eventually, a heart attack.
Things that cause oxidation:
- Chronic stress
- Environmental toxins
- Physical inactivity
- Iron overload
Ways to reduce oxidation
- Eat antioxidants: kidney beans, blue berries, artichoke, cranberries, black berries, raspberry’s, strawberries, apples, pecans, black beans, coffee, dark chocolate etc..
- Reduce stress
- Avoid toxins ( eat organic)
- Avoid sugar
-Eat cold water fatty fish
Eating cold water fatty fish reduces inflammation, increases membrane fluidity, and can even change gene expression for your benefit. Aim to eat wild caught whenever possible because farmed fish can be high in omega 6 fats (bad fats) and arachidonic acid. Dr. Derek recommends 1-1.5 pounds of fish per week.
-Eat Monounsaturated fats
These are healthy, good – for – you fats that can decrease LDL, decrease triglycerides, increase HDL, decrease oxidation and inflammation and lower blood pressure!
- Olive oil
- Macadamia nuts
- Nut Butter and Nuts
- Sesame seed oil
- Black and green olives
-Reduce Inflammation Inflammation can actually cause high cholesterol. Every cell wall on every cell in our body is made up of cholesterol. Inflammation can cause destruction to our cell walls. Then our body has to make more cholesterol to essentially “plug the holes.” Making a conscious effort to reduce inflammation can have amazing results on cholesterol levels.
To Lower Inflammation:
- absolutely avoid : artificial sweeteners, partially hydrogenated oils, all vegetable oils rapeseed (canola oil), soybean, corn, sunflower, safflower, peanut etc. and trans fats (best to try to avoid all processed food if possible).
- eat more: ginger, turmeric, fermented foods (kim chi, keifer, kombucha, sauerkraut), fatty fish, pumpkin seeds, green leafy veggies, coconut oil, bok choy, celery, beets, broccoli, bone broth, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds
- consider a detox: inflammation/ pain can be greatly affected by your body’s toxic load. Additionally, many of us have some detox impairment attributed to long term exposure to toxins, stress, adrenal fatigue, impaired liver function etc. Even if you eat organic, there’s many other ways your body picks up toxins – exhaust fumes, gasoline vapors, oral pharmaceuticals, literally anything you put on your body (lotions, make-up soaps, perfumes, nail polish etc.), acrylics, resin, rubber, dry cleaning chemicals, BPA in plastics and receipts… the list goes on and on.
- consider anti-inflammatory juices! https://draxe.com/recipe/anti-inflammatory- juice/ it’s a great way to get fresh ginger in your diet!