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Understanding Cholesterol

For many years now conventional medicine has been too focused on treating cholesterol as a means of preventing heart attacks.  This has led to many other health issues while having little effect on heart attacks.  Unfortunately, the real underlying cause of the majority of heart disease continues to go undiagnosed. 

Current research shows that abnormal cholesterol levels are a downstream problem that is mostly the result of obesity, blood sugar and insulin imbalances that can range from pre-diabetes to full-blown diabetes.

Taking statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications do nothing to reverse the metabolic changes that are creating havoc and causing cardiovascular damage.  This is why people with normal cholesterol can have heart attacks.

This does not mean we want to ignore high cholesterol, but instead of focusing just on cholesterol numbers, we should look at cholesterol particle size and particle numbers.  The small dense particles are more atherogenic (meaning they are more likely to cause plaque in the arteries) than the large fluffy particles.  These small particles are associated with metabolic syndrome and diabetes and are caused by insulin resistance.  

Measuring cholesterol particle size and number requires a simple blood test, but relatively few doctors perform this test.  Unfortunately, you can have an LDL cholesterol that looks normal, but if you have over 1,000 small LDL particles it can be very dangerous.  On the other hand, you can have the same LDL cholesterol number and if it is made up of large particles, the risk is low.  Again, your real health risk has less to do with your cholesterol numbers than it does with the quantity and size of your cholesterol particles.

So, what does all this mean and what can you do about it?

  1. Get the right test for particle size and number.  You want to know if you have the safe particles or the small, dense, damaging particles.  Available tests include:
  • Lipoprotein Particle Profile (LPP)
  • NMR LipoProfile
  • Cardio IQ

(We offer the LPP test or will be happy to talk with your doctor if they have questions locating the test).

  1. Check for metabolic syndrome. Indicators of metabolic syndrome include:
  • If you have small LDL and HDL particles.
  • If your triglycerides are greater than 100 and your HDL is less than 50, or the ratio of TG to HDL is greater than 4.
  • Your waist to hip ratio is greater than 0.8 form women or 0.9 for men. (To check the ratio, measure your waist at the belly button and your hips at the widest point.
  • If your hemoglobin A1c is over 5.5.
  1. This does not mean you have to spend hours working out.  Exercises like walking and gardening make a significant impact.
  2. Eat a healthy diet. Focus on a diet with a low glycemic load, high fiber, rich in phytonutrients and omega-3 oils.  The ideal diet consists of approximately 75% plants with the other 25% consisting of good quality proteins like beans, nuts, seeds and organic grass-fed lean meat.
  3. Get sufficient quality sleep. Sleep is when the body heals and repairs.  Also, the body tends to detoxify and repair the best between the hours of 10 pm and 2 am, so it is important to get to sleep by 10 pm if possible.
  4. Use quality supplements to support healthy cholesterol particle size. These include:
  • A multivitamin with at least 500mcg of chromium, 400mg of alpha-lipoic acid and 2mg of biotin.
  • 2000 IU of vitamin D3 (it is good to test D3 levels prior to supplementing)
  • 1000mg of Omega-3 twice daily. (Use only a high-quality pure brand as a poor quality product can do more harm than good).
  • A balanced plant sterol supplement.
  • Glucomannan 15 minutes before meals.
  1. If you take statins or cholesterol-lowering medications, DON’T stop taking them but incorporate dietary and lifestyle changes and as your particle size and numbers improve work with your doctor to eliminate medications or reduce the dosage.

We also recommend a blood nutrient analysis to identify any deficiencies and provide personalized and targeted supplementation.  Additionally, we can make specific supplement recommendations based on your specific situation.  If you would like additional information on the nutrient analysis please email us.

In addition to the nutrients listed above, we frequently recommend Bergamot BPF and Kyolic Reserve both of which are excellent products and have numerous scientific studies supporting their cardiovascular benefits.

To reduce your risk of heart disease you need to address metabolic syndrome, and that can only be done effectively with a comprehensive diet and lifestyle approach.