Does cholesterol predict heart disease? | Esther Blum

Does cholesterol predict heart disease?

Education to Empowerment with Esther Blum, Integrative Dietitian and High Performance Coach

Just this week one of my clients sent me her lab values in a panic because her cholesterol was 220 and her MD wanted to put her on a statin. Never mind that her HDL was excellent and her cholesterol to HDL ratio was also excellent. When we solely look at cholesterol as a predictor of heart disease, we are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Any practitioner who tells you otherwise is doling out antiquated and potentially dangerous information.

Before 1950, a healthy cholesterol used to be 220 + your age. We need cholesterol to protect our nervous system, brain health, and vital organs. Our livers manufacture 7 eggs’ worth of cholesterol each day for this specific purpose. If your cholesterol is high, it only tells us that your body is making more for a reason, such as a diet high in trans fat and sugary carbs, low thyroid function, or heavy metal toxicity.

Once commercial oils and processed foods were introduced into our diets (that could ironically raise our cholesterol and inflammatory markers), cholesterol was vilified as the bad guy and statins started to be prescribed as a treatment.

Right now so many Americans are so obese that current health standards are based on the lab values of Homer Simpson as a “normal” person. And if these lab values are within the “normal” range they often give us a false sense of health, because they only give us a window into what’s happening in the body at the very moment and not over the long-term.

So if cholesterol in and of itself does not predict a person’s potential to develop heart disease, what does? You have to look at other anti-inflammatory and lab markers such as:

  • Fasting insulin
  • HgbA1c
  • Lp(a)
  • CRP
  • Homocysteine
  • Triglycerides
  • Thyroid Panel: T3, T4, reverse T3, TSH, TPO
  • Lifestyle: diet, exercise, stress, booze, smoking, toxic relationships, depression

To only look at one lab value when assessing health is like only looking at a person’s arm while doing an entire physical exam. We have to go deeper and look at the big picture of diet, lifestyle, and stress.

Now here’s the good news: I have never had a client who did not lower their cholesterol when we worked together. That is because the steps you need to take to lower your cholesterol are stupidly simple yet highly effective. There is little evidence that statins prolong the lifespan, though they do act as potent anti-inflammatories. If I had a cholesterol issue, I would stick to a plant-based Paleo diet and daily movement and meditation to control the inflammation. (Oh wait, I already do those things and have never had a cholesterol issue ;-).

Do not rely on your physician or the dietetic association to keep you healthy; take ownership and responsibility for your health and question now what works for the general public, but is specific to your unique needs (???? drop). And then you’re ready to assume 100% responsibility for your heart and take control, get a health assessment in the books with me and let’s talk.

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