Cholesterol Facts and Statistics
When your body has too much cholesterol, it builds up on the walls of
your arteries. Over time this buildup will cause "hardening of the
arteries". This hardening means that your arteries become narrowed
and blood flow to the heart becomes limited.
Your blood carries oxygen to your heart. If enough oxygen and blood
cannot reach your heart, you may suffer chest pains. If the blood
supply to certain parts of your heart is cut off, by a blockage, the
result is a heart attack.
The higher your blood cholesterol level, the higher your chances of
getting heart disease or having a stroke. This would make your high
blood cholesterol level a "risk factor". A "Risk Factor" is a
condition that elevates or raises your chances of getting a disease.
High blood cholesterol levels by themselves have no visible symptoms.
This is why so many people are unaware they have high cholesterol
levels. This is also the reason why it is so important for people (of
all ages) to determine their cholesterol levels. You can determine
your cholesterol levels by visiting your health practitioner.
HOW TO DETERMINE WHAT YOUR CHOLESTEROL NUMBERS MEAN
Once your health practitioner has determined your cholesterol numbers,
use the following chart to determine what category your cholesterol
level falls into:
TOTAL CHOLESTEROL CATEGORY
Less than 200 mg. Desirable
200- 239 mg / dL Borderline
240 mg / dL and above At Risk
Studies have now been published that turn historical medical recommendations to avoid eggs upside down. Although a single egg yolk contains 200 milligrams of cholesterol, recent studies show that eating eggs doesn't necessarily cause cholesterol in the bloodstream to skyrocket. According to the publishers of The New England Journal of Medicine, "these findings have led doctors to give the okay for most healthy Americans to eat up to four eggs a week."
Now in a study published in the April 21 Journal of the American Medical Association, Harvard Medical School researchers categorized the egg-eating habits of almost 38,000 male health professionals and 80,000 female nurses; and found low consumption at one egg per week and high at one or more eggs per day. Researchers also tracked the associated occurrence of heart attacks, stroke, and other types of cardiovascular disease in the male group for eight years and in the female group for fourteen years. They found no connection between egg consumption and heart disease. Even after adjusting for factors such as age, weight, high-fat food intake, smoking, high blood pressure, and family history of heart problems no statistical correlation was identifiable between egg eating and heart disease.
Eggs are no longer implicated in problems with LDL (bad cholesterol) and in fact help the body to balance good and bad cholesterol. This balance is important because cholesterol forms part of all our organs, including the heart and brain. All sex hormones are manufactured by the body from cholesterol. Adequate cholesterol is absolutely necessary for maintaining mental and sexual function during aging.
Researchers have found that changes in LDL are mainly a result of liver dysfunction caused by the following:
- Liver dysfunction is genetically inherited, more probable in early onset of problem with no disease or aging indicators.
- Liver dysfunction occurs as part of the aging process.
- Liver dysfunction occurs from disease, diabetes being the most common.
A defect in the receptor protein for LDL in the liver has been found to be a cause for high LDL. This defect is considered to be genetic, although dietary environment and an unhealthy lifestyle could precipitate liver dysfunction, and often does with the aging process and with disease, diabetes being the most common. The LDL receptor from the liver is responsible for removing cholesterol from the blood; and once the LDL is bound to the receptor a signal is sent for the body to cease producing LDL.
Damaged receptors do not send the "Stop Production" signal, and result in excessive LDL levels. Also, a diet high in saturated fat decreases the number of LDL receptors, and thereby reduces "Stop Production" feedback. Another association to LDL levels is Low Thyroid Function. Although not as common, individuals with thyroid problems need to realize this association.
Proper ranges of cholesterol are important in the prevention of heart attack or stroke.
INDICATORS OF POOR LIVER FUNCTION AND COMPROMISED CARDIOVASCULAR FUNCTION
200 mg/dl (Total) and above, AND
130 mg LDL and above, AND
35mg/dl HDL and lower, AND
lipoprotein(a) level greater than 30 mg/dl
Cholesterol Nutritional Support Strategies
Cholesterol levels are generally very responsive to diet and lifestyle changes. If your cholesterol level requires extra attention (medical or alternative) you need to understand the risks associated with cholesterol-lowering drugs.
Almost 30 million prescriptions are issued each year for cholesterol-lowering drugs. These drugs have not been proven to extend a person's life span. To the contrary, these drugs (lovastatin--known as Mevacor, and gemfibrozil--known as Lopid) have been associated with increased noncardiovascular mortality. In other words, the persons taking these cholesterol-lowering drugs had increased death rates from some other cause (not cardiovascular), and died sooner than they would have if they had not been on cholesterol-lowering drugs.
Why? Probably because this specific category of drugs has been clearly proven in animal studies to be carcinogenic (cancer causing) and toxic to the liver (remember that is the organ that controls LDL levels in the first place). [study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association titled "Carcinogenicity of Lipid-Lowering Drugs," by Neman and Hully, vol 275 (1996) pgs. 55-60]
This study clearly demonstrated that the risk of carcinogenicity for cholesterol-lowering drugs is far above recently issued FDA guidelines. Although directly associating animal data to humans is an uncertain process, a toxin that is carcinogenic to any tissue form should be considered highly risky.
The following excerpt from the JAMA article provides informative insight into the power of drug companies in the drug approval process:
"How did it happen that cholesterol-lowering drugs were approved by the FDA for long-term use in spite of their animal carcinogenicity? To address the question, we obtained minutes of the Endocrinologic and Metabolic Drugs Advisory Committee meetings (under the Freedom of Information Act) at which lovastatin and gemfibrozil--the two most popular cholesterol-lowering drugs--were discussed. ... The only reported discussion of animal carcinogenicity studies at the FDA advisory committee meeting on lovastatin (February 19 and 20, 1987) was by a representative of Merck Sharp & Dohme (makers of the Mevacor brand of lovastatin), who downplayed the importance of the studies."
The minutes from the meeting on gemfibrozil (October 17, 1988) are even more revealing because the committee did discuss carcinogenicity
"Dr. Troendle [deputy director, Division of Metabolism and Endocrine Drug Products for the FDA] noted that gemfibrozil belongs to a class of drugs that has been shown to increase total mortality. It has been shown to have animal carcinogenicity, and she does not believe the FDA has ever approved a drug for long-term prophylactic use that was carcinogenic at such low multiples of the human dose as gemfibrozil."
When asked to vote at the end of the meeting, only three of the nine
advisory committee members believed the potential benefit of gemfibrozil outweighed the risk. But the committee's non-approval decision was ignored by the FDA and gemfibrozil was given FDA approval.
So now nearly 30 million prescriptions are given by doctors for cholesterol-lowering drugs that are known to have carcinogenicity, probably the doctors to not know this, they only know that the drugs have FDA approval! Mevacor (lovastatin) is the most popular and Lopid (gemfibrozil) is now second.
The authors of the above JAMA article advised that lipid-lowering drug treatment be avoided except in patients at high risk for an immediate heart attack or stroke.
Yet most doctors don't know this and the health millions of individuals is being compromised. This situation demonstrates how each individual must become educated about their health challenge and their options; and not just rely on the doctor and FDA approved drugs.
With acute LDL levels (i.e. higher than 160) researchers had more
significant success with a niacin therapy program than with the drug
Lovastatin; better HDL to LDL ratio, and significantly better lipoprotein reduction.
However, niacin does have some side effects, such as flushing. Also, forms of niacin like "sustained-release" and "timed-release" or "slow-release" should be avoided because they are also toxic to the liver--as shown in recent studies published in JAMA [McKenny et al. "A Comparison of the Efficacy and Toxic Effects of Sustained- vs. Immediate-Release Niacin in Hypercholesterolemic Patients." JAMA vol 271 (1994) pgs. 672-677].
Besides niacin, extra vitamin B5, Vitamin C, and Garlic are also components to have in an alternative therapy program.
Food sources of each of these nutrients as well as many others is contained within the discussion of that nutrient in our web area "Pick A Nutrient..." For example, look at niacin (Vitamin B3) and you will see that fish, poultry, eggs, rice and sunflower seeds are good sources of niacin vitamin B3 Or just click here for natural sources of vitamin B5
The most important issue in cholesterol is balance between HDL and LDL and triglycerides. The most important body function to obtain this balance is a healthy liver. Liver health is the result of a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and supplementing with antioxidants and nutrients to decrease the toxic burden the liver has to deal with each day.
Our Self-Management Program will give you several more ideas to help the body control cholesterol. You might also want to read about Hayley's cholesterol experience.