Cholesterol is an exciting topic. Our bodies make it. Nearly every cell in our bodies needs it. Statin drugs to treat cholesterol shuts down the body’s production of it.
For most of my life, my total cholesterol ran in the range of 104-114 mg/dl. I was eating double cheeseburgers (triples at one point in my early life), sausage and cheese omelets, and other foods that typically cause cholesterol levels to increase. Why did my total cholesterol remain so low?
I asked many flight surgeons and an occasional family doctor, and no one could tell me at what point low total cholesterol could become a problem. Unfortunately, there is little definitive information on how low is too low regarding total cholesterol with internet searches today. Regardless, near the end of my sixteen years of flying, I found a flight surgeon who told me he would worry if any of his patient’s total cholesterol dropped below 90 mg/dl.
Our bodies make cholesterol, and the foods we eat add cholesterol. There is a balance between the body’s production and food-supplied cholesterol. When you are no longer eating high cholesterol-producing foods, your body makes more. Conversely, when you eat more foods that increase cholesterol, your body produces less. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/dietary-cholesterol-does-not-matter#effects
For most of us, cholesterol production and dietary cholesterol intake are not a problem. Yet, many doctors fear that when total cholesterol goes over 200 mg/dl, they must take action to reduce it. Yes, the evidence points to increased risk of more plaque in the heart valves and arteries, increased risk of high blood pressure, and an increased risk of other cardiovascular diseases.
Plaque builds up in the heart valves and arteries over time. It is made up primarily of oxidized fat (cholesterol) and calcium. https://www.secondscount.org/heart-condition-centers/info-detail-2/what-is-arterial-plaque#.Yj81dnrMKUk. Calcium forms plaque when the body does not have enough vitamin K2 to cause calcium to go into the bones. Oxidized cholesterol is formed by eating commercially fried foods, excess polyunsaturated fatty acids, and smoking.
https://www.pritikin.com/your-health/health-benefits/lower-cholesterol/1759-5-tactics-to-reduce-cholesterol-quickly.html. Five lifestyle changes have been shown to reduce cholesterol. Eat more foods high in fiber -fruits and vegetables. Minimize unhealthy fats in your food selections. Eat fewer refined grains (white flour), stop smoking, and exercise more.
Other things to consider? Increase omega-3 fatty acids and reduce omega-6 fatty acids. Avoid trans-fat. Supplement with more soluble fiber. Maintain a healthy weight. And drink alcohol in moderation. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-lower-cholesterol#eat-soluble-fiber
Researchers tell us that for every ten percent drop in your cholesterol level, your heart attack risk drops by around 25%. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/615295.
The medical profession concentrates on cholesterol numbers rather than ratios. Doctors usually give their patients the total cholesterol number. You need to know all the cholesterol numbers, not just the total.
The HDL cholesterol ratio and total cholesterol are more critical than the total cholesterol by itself. The ratio of total cholesterol divided by HDL cholesterol should be less than 5.0, with an ideal ratio of around 3.5.
When your total cholesterol is 200 mg/dl and your HDL is 35 mg/dl, your ratio is 5.7 – something to be concerned about. When your total cholesterol is 200 mg/dl, and your HDL is 60 mg/dl your ratio is 3.3 mg/dl – almost ideal. The same total cholesterol number can mean two different things based on the HDL levels.