Do you have high cholesterol? Are you worried that your high cholesterol could lead to heart disease, stroke, or high blood pressure? What would you say if I told you that cholesterol doesn’t cause heart disease?!
For the past half-century, most doctors and researchers have focused on the idea that cardiovascular disease was linked to fat in the diet, and a high-fat diet causes high blood cholesterol. High blood cholesterol then causes a buildup of plaque in the arteries which lead to atherosclerosis. And atherosclerosis results in a heart attack, stroke, or high blood pressure. I’m guessing this is what your doctors have told you.
Let me throw some facts at you…
Every year, conventional doctors write more than 50 million prescriptions for cholesterol-lowering drugs (which are inherently toxic to your system with harmful side effects.)
Nearly 75% of people who have heart attacks have normal cholesterol levels.
The University Hospital in Switzerland claimed they did not find any statistically significant link between cholesterol levels and coronary heart disease.
In February 2003, a study compared the Atkin’s Low-Carb diet and the American Heart Association’s Low-Fat diet. The Atkins’ diet lead not only to greater weight loss but also lowered cholesterol. *(There are some drawbacks to the Atkins’ diet, and the carbs referred to are simple carbs, not complex carbs.)
In May 2003, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study that found the Atkins’ diet was better than the American Heart Association’s Low-Fat diet with regard to both weight loss and blood fat improvement.
The Heritage Medical Center did a study on patients with Metabolic Syndrome and found that a Low-Carb diet reduced LDL by an average of 82% and increased HDL by an average of 30%.
In one study of 22 countries, Japan was found to have the lowest fat intake but had a 600% higher risk of heart disease than Mexico whose fat intake is 2750% higher than Japan.
Let’s look at history. From World War 1 through the 1980’s, the death rate from heart attacks increased while fat intake decreased. Cardiovascular disease in the U.S. increased about tenfold between 1930 and 1960, while consumption of animal fat decreased during the same period.
From the 1980’s until just recently, the medical community has been telling us to be on a Low-Fat diet in order to have better heart health. During that time, heart disease and strokes have skyrocketed as have such things like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ADHD, obesity, etc.
So what’s the deal? Research is now showing that plaque buildup is dangerous and can cause heart disease but not the presence of cholesterol itself. It turns out that fat and cholesterol play an essential role in health. (This is something Natural Health Practitioners have been taught for years.)
Cholesterol is manufactured in the body in the liver. It provides energy to cells. It helps make cell membranes. It assists in the formation of sheaths around nerves. And cholesterol plays a vital role in the production of estrogen, progesterone, DHEA, testosterone, and cortisol. Think about that for a minute. Cholesterol (and fat) affect nerves. Nerve issues could lead to things like tingling in the hands and feet, restless leg syndrome, neuropathy, Parkinson’s, etc. Cholesterol affects hormones. What’s been popular the last couple years? Hormone replacement therapy, testosterone shots for men, adrenal fatigue, estrogen and progesterone treatment, etc. Low cholesterol has been linked to reduced levels of serotonin and an increase in depression. How many people are taking antidepressants these days?
I want to speak briefly on cholesterol-lowering drugs and blood pressure pills. The US FDA reports that 20 million Americans are taking statins. The side effects of statins include liver toxicity, digestive issues, rashes, blurred vision, muscle weakness, high blood pressure, and kidney failure. Hundreds of people have died from taking statin drugs such as Lescol, Lipitor, Mevacor, and Zocor. Keep in mind, statins are by nature toxic to your liver. Your liver is your body’s main detoxifier and the liver makes cholesterol. Statin drugs also reduce your body’s amount of CoQ10 (by as much as 40%) which is an antioxidant that is essential for heart health. One study showed that statins reduced antioxidant levels by 22%. Antioxidants are needed to fight free radical damage.
Another study showed Zocor increased insulin levels by 13%. Increasing insulin levels increases your risk of heart disease, hypertension, obesity, insulin resistance, and Type 2 diabetes.
If you have high blood pressure, you may have been prescribed calcium channel blockers, ACE inhibitors, Beta blockers, or diuretics. Side effects of calcium channel blockers include headache, flushing, constipation, nausea, elevated cholesterol, edema, and low blood pressure. It could also increase your risk of a heart attack by 60%!
Side effects from ACE inhibitors include dry cough, reduced appetite, mineral deficiencies, kidney damage, and reduced white blood cell count.
Side effects from Beta blockers include fatigue, dizziness, insomnia, nausea, depression, impotence, cold extremities, an increase in triglycerides, and a decrease in HDL (good cholesterol).
Diuretics can have side effects such as weakness, dehydration, gouty arthritis, muscle cramps, diarrhea, joint pain, and vomiting.
So the question is – what is the answer? First, a blood test can give you a good view of your cardiovascular health. You’ll want to check your levels of Homocysteine, C-reactive protein, CoQ10, Insulin, and VAP cholesterol. Homocysteine is an excellent measure of antioxidant health as well as an actual indicator of cardiovascular inflammation. High levels of Homocysteine can damage your arteries and can increase formation of arterial plaque. It also makes your blood platelets sticky which increases the risk of blood clots, leading to heart attacks, stroke, and pulmonary embolism.
C-reactive protein levels rise when your body is experiencing inflammation. It is released by the liver. The higher the level of CRP, the higher your risk of a heart attack. In today’s world, our bodies’ are often in a constant state of inflammation. Do you have any health issues that end in “-itis”? Arthritis, gastritis, colitis, diverticulitis, etc. These are all inflammatory issues.
What else can you do? Eat healthy food and exercise. I don’t want to get too much into the food aspect of health here. In brief, eat more fruits and vegetables, more raw food, less processed food, less sugar and simple carbs. That’s a good start.
With regard to exercise, interval training is more effective in protecting your heart than either long-term cardio workouts or no workouts at all. Interval training not only lowers cholesterol levels but it improves cholesterol ratios. Studies have shown that interval training resulted in a drop in total cholesterol and a rise in the good HDL.
Interval training also helps maintain healthy testosterone levels. A study in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that testosterone levels increase more in men who do interval training than in those doing cardio/endurance training. Furthermore, the older the men, the more dramatic the results.
A Harvard study found that men who did interval training reduced their heart disease risk by 20%.
With regard to weight loss, interval training is more effective than endurance exercises. How does that work, exactly? Researchers at Colorado State University measured how long we burn fat after working out. After doing interval training, they found that participants were still burning fat sixteen hours after the exercise. Their fat oxidation was up by 62%, and their resting metabolic rate rose 4 percent.
Another study by Laval University in Quebec took two groups – one group cycled for 45 minutes straight without stopping. The other cycled in short bursts of 15-90 seconds with a rest in between. The results? The long-duration group burned twice as many calories as the interval group, BUT the short-interval group lost more fat! In fact, for every calorie burned, the interval group lost nine times more fat!
So, to strengthen your heart, lose more weight, and reduce your cholesterol levels, the best method of working out is interval training. This is why I use what is commonly known as HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training.
I hope this makes you stop and think about how to stay healthy, lose weight, and lower your cholesterol. I’m not a big fan of pharmaceuticals, because there are so many side effects, and there are so many other natural means of being healthy. If you’d like to talk to me about your health, please give me a call or send me an email.
To Your Health,
(*much of the information in this post comes from Dr. Al Sears)