What is the cause of heart disease, or is cholesterol really the bad guy?
Cardiovascular disease is rampant in America today. Over 65 million people are affected. One in three deaths in America is caused by cardiovascular disease, although Lipitor is the one of the most prescribed drugs in America. You have to ask why prescribing massive amounts of cholesterol lowering medications hasn’t put a dent in reducing cardiovascular disease.
Obviously we are doing something wrong. There are a couple of ways we can look at this. First of all, maybe cholesterol isn’t the bad guy. Cholesterol is a sterol hormone which is essential for the operation of our body. It is a necessary precursor for all our sex hormones. It lines all of our cell walls. Moreover, there have been a number of studies that demonstrate a cholesterol level below a certain number can cause other conditions, including dementia and early death from other factors. Some studies have tied low cholesterol to an increased risk of cancer.
There are numerous new advanced lipid profile tests that are looking at cholesterol in a different way. First of all you have to understand that when you get a lipid profile the numbers you see are measurements of lipoproteins, which are the molecules that carry cholesterol through our blood stream. Low density lipoproteins (LDL) are the “bad cholesterol” and HDL is the “good cholesterol.” There is now evidence that the number of LDL particles (LDL-P) is a more accurate determinate of vascular disease than the amount of cholesterol inside the lipoprotein (LDL-C). Another more accurate marker for cardiovascular disease is LDLa which is a lipoprotein that is not even affected by statins.
Perhaps, as I have stated before, INFLAMMATION is the bad guy. The new advanced heart studies are also looking at inflammatory markers in you blood. It is now widely accepted that arterial plaque is a result of the body reacting to damaged arterial walls. The most likely suspect in arterial wall damage is inflammation. The new profiles look at inflammatory markers, which are indications that some other pathology is happening in your body. Some of the important inflammatory markers are c reactive protein, fibrinogen, LpPLA2, and oxidized LDL.
Another way to look at high cholesterol is a symptom rather than a cause. There are other metabolic processes which might be the underlying cause of your higher than normal cholesterol. Your liver might be producing more cholesterol to protect you. There are a number of factors that can drive your liver to produce more cholesterol. And no, eating too much cholesterol is not one of them! Seventy five percent of the circulating cholesterol in your body is produced in your liver and not from your diet. So what are the metabolic factors that you need to address if you have high cholesterol?
- Metabolic dysfunction such as high blood sugar or insulin
- Chronic infections
- Heavy metal toxicity
- Gut dysbiosis
- Genetics – Familial hypercholesterolemia
There could be any number of these underlying factors that could be driving your numbers up. Rather than taking a statin, which inhibits your liver in making cholesterol, you might want to figure out first of all if the cholesterol you have is really putting you at risk for cardiovascular disease and if so, determine the underlying cause of why your liver is in crisis. Maybe if you fix these, your cholesterol numbers will drop back to the normal range without taking a drug that has some pretty serious side effects.
So the first test would be to have an advanced lipid profile. This is a more sophisticated look at your cardiovascular risk. After evaluating your history at your first functional medicine appointment, I will order an advanced lipid panel. I prefer Boston Heart because it includes all the markers I mentioned, including inflammatory markers. At your follow up appointment we can then address all metabolic factors.
For our health’s sake, we need to start taking a new approach, because what we are doing now as a society is not working!
Call today to schedule your functional medicine appointment and begin your journey to better health.