Don’t be a Statin Statistic, You CAN Reclaim Your Heart Health with Proper Nutrition
Enough with all of this cholesterol confusion, dietary cholesterol and saturated fats DO NOT cause heart disease!
Dietary cholesterol is likely one of the most misunderstood elements of nutrition. Not so much because it actually is confusing, but more so because its been swimming in a muddied pool of misinformation for decades. Largely due to several misguided hypotheses that originated as far back as the nineteen sixties. For 4 decades now, doctors have been taught to discourage patients from eating foods that contain saturated fats and are high in dietary cholesterol, convinced of their correlation with the development of heart disease. This common medical advice has unfortunately had no discernible positive impact on heart disease rates. Up until about the mid-80s, cholesterol, and the fear of having “too high” a level was rarely discussed unless your cholesterol level was over 300. Over the years, unfortunately, cholesterol became a household word for something you must keep as low as possible, or you were at risk for heart disease. Today, dietary fat and cholesterol are typically still portrayed as the worst foods you can consume. Truth is, these nutrients are actually essential for heart health. Cholesterol is one of the most important molecules in your body, a necessity for building cells and producing vitamin D, stress and sex hormones. Cholesterol is so imperative to life, in fact, that your body will make its own, should it detect a deficit. About 75% of this push-button issue is driven by genetics and heredity.
Since we now know the cholesterol/Heart hypothesis to be false, this also means that the recommended therapies like the low-fat, low-cholesterol diet, and cholesterol lowering medications (statins) to be useless, and more often than not, dangerous. The greatest tragedy in regards to this myth is the fact that literally hundreds of thousands of people are being prescribed Statins based on a total cholesterol measurement alone. Total cholesterol tells you virtually nothing about your heart disease risk. Some in the medical community believe this to be nothing short of malpractice.
Statin treatment, is largely harmful, costly, and has transformed millions of people into patients whose health is being adversely impacted by the drug. Dr. Frank Lipman wrote this as pertaining to cholesterol:
“The medical profession is obsessed with lowering your cholesterol because of misguided theories about cholesterol and heart disease. Why would we want to lower it when the research actually shows that three-quarters of people having a first heart attack have normal cholesterol levels, and when data over 30 years from the well-known Framingham Heart Study showed that in most age groups, high cholesterol wasn’t associated with more deaths? In fact, for older people, deaths were more common with low cholesterol. The research is clear – statins are being prescribed based on an incorrect hypothesis, and they are not harmless.”
HERE IS WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW WHEN TALKING TO YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT YOUR CHOLESTEROL LEVELS:
#1: Common Cholesterol Science is flawed:
In 1953, Dr. Ancel Keys conducted the Six Countries Study, determined to link the consumption of dietary fat to coronary heart disease. When Keys published his analysis that claimed to prove this link, he cherry-picked his data to include only information from seven countries, despite having data from 22 countries at his disposal. He excluded data from countries that did not fit with his preconceived theory. Once the data from all 22 countries was analyzed, the correlation literally disappears.
“Today’s mainstream thinking on cholesterol is largely based on an influential, but flawed 1960s study which concluded that men who ate a lot of meat and dairy had high levels of cholesterol and of heart disease. This interpretation took root, giving rise to what became the prevailing wisdom of the last 40+ years: lay off saturated fats and your cholesterol levels and heart disease risk will drop. This helped set off the stampede to create low-fat/no-fat Frankenfoods in the lab and launch the multibillion-dollar cholesterol-lowering drug business in hopes of reducing heart disease risk. Did it work? No. Instead of making people healthier, we’ve wound up with an obesity and diabetes epidemic that will wind up driving up rates of heart disease – hardly the result we were hoping for.”
#2: Cholesterol is a necessity for good health
Cholesterol is found not only in your bloodstream but also in every cell in your body. It helps to produce cell membranes, the sex hormones testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen, and bile acids that help you digest fat, the production of vitamin D, and serves as insulation for your nerve cells. Cholesterol is imperative for brain health, and helps with the formation of your memories. Low levels of HDL cholesterol have been linked to memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease, and correlation with an increased risk of depression, stroke, violent behavior, and even suicidal behaviors.
#3: Total Cholesterol is not an Adequate Measurement for Heart Health Risk!
Your liver makes approximately 3/4’s of your total body’s cholesterol, of which there are two basic types:
* High-density lipoprotein or HDL: This is often referred to as the “good” cholesterol, which is thought to actually help prevent heart disease.
* Low-density lipoprotein or LDL: This known as the “bad” cholesterol. According to conventional thinking, LDL is the one that builds up in your arteries, forming a plaque that narrows your arteries making them less flexible (atherosclerosis). We’re a clot to forms in one of these narrowed arteries that lead to your heart or brain, a heart attack or stroke may be the result.
As medical research science has progressed over the past 4 decades, so has our understanding of cholesterol. Unfortunately medical school protocols, curriculums and guidelines have not caught up. Most general practitioners believe in a very simplified version of how cholesterol behaves in our bodies. The FDA has even lightened its stance as evident in the recent updates to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines in 2015. Apparently size really does matter. Dr. Ron Rosedale clears up some of the confusion:
“The division into HDL and LDL is based on how the cholesterol combines with protein particles. LDL and HDL are lipoproteins — fats combined with proteins. Cholesterol is fat-soluble, and blood is mostly water. For it to be transported in your blood, cholesterol needs to be carried by a lipoprotein, which are classified by density. Large LDL particles are not harmful. Only small dense LDL particles can potentially be a problem, as they can squeeze through the lining of your arteries. If they oxidize, they can cause damage and inflammation. Thus, it would be more accurate to say that there are “good” and “bad” lipoproteins (as opposed to good and bad cholesterol).”
Heart-health expert Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride simplifies the understanding of cholesterol’s behavior even further with this analogy:
“Because [LDL] cholesterol travels from the liver to the wound in the form of LDL, our “science,” in its wisdom calls LDL “bad” cholesterol. When the wound heals and the cholesterol is removed, it travels back to the liver in the form of HDL cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol). Because this cholesterol travels away from the artery back to the liver, our misguided “science” calls it “good” cholesterol. This is like calling an ambulance traveling from the hospital to the patient a “bad ambulance,” and the one traveling from the patient back to the hospital a “good ambulance.”
More recent research has uncovered that it is not necessarily the count of LDL that is culprit in artery blockage, but rather the size of the LDL particles themselves. The large buoyant LDL particles tend to be benign, while the small, dense LDL particles are actually cause for concern. Cardiologist Stephen Sinatra says that the National Lipid Association (NLA) is now lobbying for a shift of focus toward LDL particle number instead of total and LDL cholesterol, in order to better assess the risk of heart disease in patients. But it still has not hit the mainstream, as most general practitioners still follow the outdated guidelines set forth The American Heart Association (AHA). He noted the following in his article:
“Consequently, you may have blood teeming with the less alarming large particle LDL, and still get signed up for a statin. And with the new controversial – and in my book dangerous – ‘wider net’ guidelines proposed by American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, expect that to happen a lot more. The new guidelines will make an estimated additional 15 million more adults (plus a few kids as well) ‘eligible’ to take statins in an effort to drug down their numbers, regardless of what type of LDL they have.”
#4: There are Measures in Place to Help You Dig Deeper into Your Risk Factors! (…and one of them is likely covered by your insurance)
Now that you know about particle size numbers, you CAN take control of your health and either ask your doctor for this test, or order it for yourself. It’s called an NMR LipoProfile. All major labs offer it, including LabCorp and Quest. Dr. Lipman says, if your doctor tells you your cholesterol is too high based on the standard lipid profile, getting a more complete picture is of the utmost importance. Especially if you have a family history of heart disease or other risk factors. Dr. Lipman continues:
“Press your doctor to review and assess the other often overlooked but possibly more important factors that can shed a brighter light on your UNIQUE situation, namely tests which look at hs-C-reactive protein, particle sizes of the LDL cholesterol (sometimes called NMR Lipoprofile), Lipoprotein and serum fibrinogen. These measurable physical clues will help fill in a few more pieces of the puzzle, and enable you and your doctor to develop a more customized program to help manage YOUR risk, with or without cholesterol drugs. If your doc’s not interested in looking under the medical hood, then it may be time to switch to a new mechanic.”
#5: Pro-Statin Studies Are Usually Funded By Drug Companies!
Most pro-statin studies are sponsored and funded by the drug manufacturers themselves, which (surprise) will typically skew results in their favor. Conflicts of interest have had a tremendous influence on the creation of guidelines and protocols in the medical community. In fact it has become more of the norm than the exception. Here’s just one example, the revised and controversial 2013 cholesterol-treatment guidelines issued by the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) were created by a several individuals who had enormous conflicts of interest:
* The most noted author was Dr. Neil J. Stone. Dr. Stone is a proponent of statin usage and has received honoraria for educational lectures from Abbott, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Kos, Merck, Merck/Schering-Plough, Novartis, Pfizer, Reliant, and Sankyo (all drug companies). He has also served as a consultant for Abbott, Merck, Merck/Schering-Plough, Pfizer, and Reliant.
* The second author is Jennifer Robinson who admitted to the New York Times in 2011 that she was given research money from seven drug companies, including some of the main sellers and manufacturers of cholesterol medications.
* Another author, C. Noel Bairey Merz, received lecture honoraria from Pfizer, Merck, & Kos, and has consulted for Pfizer, Bayer, and EHC (Merck). She’s also received unrestricted grant money for continuing medical education from Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, Novartis, Wyeth, AstraZeneca, and Bristol-Myers Squibb Medical Imaging, as well as research grant money from Merck. She owns stock in Boston Scientific, IVAX, Eli Lilly, Medtronic, Johnson & Johnson, SCIPIE Insurance, ATS Medical, and Biosite.
* The list goes on and on.
#6: You Can Improve Your Heart Health Markers, But You Must First Know What They Are!
Statins and other cholesterol-lowering drugs are not prudent for the majority of people. Specifically, if high cholesterol and longevity run in your family. Don’t be afraid to push back and tell your doc you’d prefer to avoid drug therapies, assuming you’re not in a critical situation. Discuss with your Doctor the possibility of trying a nutritional approach to improving your heart health markers based on all of your specific risk factors, not just your cholesterol numbers alone. In addition to the NMR Lipoprofile mentioned earlier, there are other tests that can give you a much better assessment of your heart disease risk than your total cholesterol numbers alone:
* HDL/Cholesterol ratio: Divide your HDL level by your total cholesterol. That percentage should be above 24%.
* Triglyceride/HDL ratios: You can also do the same thing with your triglycerides and HDL ratio. That percentage should be below 2.
* Fasting insulin level: Any foods high in carbohydrates like fructose and refined grains generates a rapid rise in blood glucose. Insulin then accelerates to compensate for the rise in blood sugar. Insulin released from eating too many carbs promotes fat accumulation and makes it more difficult for your body to shed excess weight. Excess fat, particularly the visceral fat around your belly, is one of the major contributors to heart disease.
* Fasting blood sugar: Studies have shown that people with a fasting blood sugar level of 100-125 mg/dl had a nearly 300% increased risk of having coronary heart disease than people with a level below 79 mg/dl.
* Iron level: Iron can be very potent. Excess iron creates oxidative stress. Excess iron levels can damage your blood vessels and increase your risk of heart disease. Ideally, you should monitor your ferritin levels and make sure they are not above 80 ng/ml. This can sometimes be remedied by donating blood or having therapeutic phlebotomy. Either of these procedures can effectively eliminate the excess iron from your blood.
*Coronary Calcium Scan (CAC): Undoubtedly the most conclusive test for detecting Coronary Artery Disease. A coronary calcium scan is a test that looks for specks of calcium in the walls of the coronary (heart) arteries. These specks of calcium are called calcifications. Calcifications in the coronary arteries are an early sign of coronary heart disease (CHD). CHD is a disease in which a waxy substance called plaque builds up in the coronary arteries. Over time, plaque can harden or rupture (break open). Hardened plaque narrows the coronary arteries and reduces the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart. This can cause chest pain or discomfort called angina. If the plaque ruptures, a blood clot can form on its surface. A large blood clot can mostly or completely block blood flow through a coronary artery. This is the most common cause of a heart attack. Over time, ruptured plaque also hardens and narrows the coronary arteries. CHD also can lead to heart failure and arrhythmias. Two machines can show calcium in the coronary arteries—electron beam computed tomography (EBCT) and multidetector computed tomography (MDCT). Both use x rays to create detailed pictures of your heart and circulatory system. A coronary calcium scan is a fairly simple test and provides a definitive measure of the locations and existence of problematic areas. Unfortunately, this test is rarely used and not covered by health insurance despite the fact that the alternative treatment (Stenting) is much more invasive, not to mention, nearly 100 times more expensive. This issue has become so controversial that a documentary was released last year detailing the problem entitled “The Widowmaker” here is a short movie trailer:
#7: You Can Easily Improve Your Heart Health With Proper Nutrition!
You can improve your heart health by improving your diet. Unfortunately, many doctors would rather write a quick script for a Statin than spend the time explaining nutritional therapies. Here are a few steps you can take to improve your heart health:
1. Eliminate processed foods which are loaded with refined sugar and carbs, processed fructose, and trans fat. All of these foods increase the risk of heart disease. Try to implement unprocessed or minimally processed foods, ideally organic and/or locally grown into your daily diet.
2. As often as possible, avoid meats and other animal products such as dairy and eggs sourced from animals raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Instead, opt for grass-fed, pastured varieties, raised according to organic standards. Mostly for the purpose of increasing the levels of healthy saturated fats in your diet.
3. Eliminate no-fat and low-fat foods, and increase consumption of healthy fats. Half of the population suffers with insulin resistance and would benefit from consuming 50-85 percent of their daily calories from healthy saturated fats, such as avocados, grass-fed butter, pastured egg yolks, coconuts and coconut oil, unheated organic nut oils, raw nuts, and grass-fed meats. No- or low-fat foods are usually processed foods that are high in sugar, which raises your small, dense LDL particles.
4. Balancing your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio is also key for heart health, as these fatty acids help build the cells in your arteries that make the prostacyclin that keeps your blood flowing smoothly. Omega-3 deficiency can cause or contribute to very serious health problems, both mental and physical, and may be a significant underlying factor of up to 100,000 premature deaths each year.
5. Ask your doctor of the appropriate ratios of calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium, supplement when necessary, but most of these nutrients are abundant in a whole food, fresh vegetable rich diet anyway.
6. Optimize your vitamin D level. Some experts believe that optimizing your vitamin D level through regular sun exposure, as opposed to taking an oral supplement, may be key to optimizing your heart health. If you do opt for a supplement, you will also increase your need for vitamin K2.
7. Optimize your gut health. Regularly eating fermented foods, such as fermented vegetables, will help reseed your gut with beneficial bacteria that may play an important role in preventing heart disease and countless other health issues.
8. Eliminate smoking & alcohol consumption.
9. Exercising regularly is actually one of the safest, most effective ways to prevent and treat heart disease. In 2013, Harvard and Stanford researchers reviewed 305 randomized controlled trials, concluding there are “no detectable differences” between physical activity and medications for heart disease. High-intensity interval training (HIIT), which requires but a fraction of the time compared to conventional cardio regimens, has been proven to be especially effective.
10. Pay attention to your oral health. There is evidence linking the state of your oral health several heart health issues.
11. Consider retraining your metabolism to get its energy from fat instead of glucose by following the perameters of a low-carb/high fat (LCHF) diet, sometimes referred to as Banting, Paleo, NSNG, Keto (Ketogenic) or Atkins. All of these are similar and will improve your heart health and optimize your metabolism.
Avoiding statins might be one of the healthiest decisions you ever make. The side effects of these drugs are numerous, while the benefits are debatable. There is but one group of individuals who actually benefit from a cholesterol-lowering or Statin medication. These people have Genetic Familial Hypercholesterolemia. This is a condition characterized by abnormally high cholesterol, and is most often resistant to lowering with lifestyle strategies like diet and exercise.
The purpose of this article was to provide a brief overview of the misconceptions surrounding dietary cholesterol as well as the unnecessary and potentially dangerous treatments that have become epidemic in our country. To thoroughly understand this topic, one must jump down a virtual research rabbit hole 100 miles deep! I have included a video that provides insights into this topic in much greater detail: Ivor Cummins takes a problem solving Engineer’s approach to understanding your lipid panels and reclaiming your heart health. The video is about 30 minutes in length and well worth the watch. If you’ve recently received a diagnosis, or have a loved one that has, this information could, quite literally, change your life.
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