What gives a good measure of heart health?

I am a researcher – not a doctor. I research the human body at the cellular level looking for cause and effect relationships. You cannot solve a health problem by treating symptoms, you must treat the cause of the problem.

My position on statin drugs is that they probably have a place in medical treatment, but not at the level they are being provided by doctors today. Cholesterol is produced in our bodies daily. Cholesterol is also available from the food we eat.

Statin drugs block the enzyme, hydroxy-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase (HMG-CoA reductase) which creates cholesterol in the liver. Cholesterol is critical for health– it is essential for the normal function of every cell in your body.

Over time, cholesterol and other oxidized fatty plaques can accumulate on the inside surface of your artery walls. As these plaques grow it is possible to reduce or block the flow of blood to your heart. This can create pain around your heart called angina.

Cholesterol can contribute to the development of atherosclerosis – a condition in which your artery wall thickens because of cholesterol and other fatty materials build up because of oxidation. Atherosclerosis is also known as the ‘hardening of your arteries’.

Statistics show that half the people who die from a heart attack have no warning – no chest pain. Half the people who die from a heart attack have healthy levels of cholesterol. What does that mean?
Maybe cholesterol is not the ‘marker’ to be measured for heart disease. Most of the studies I have researched indicate that heart disease can be moderated by reducing the inflammation in your body.

A good blood test for inflammation in the body is the c-reactive protein blood test. The closer the test result is to zero, the less inflammation is in your body.

Cholesterol is measured differently around the world. In the United States, cholesterol is measured in totality and is broken down into components. A total cholesterol reading of 200 mg/dL is considered desirable, yet friends of mine have a total cholesterol reading less than 200 and their doctors want to put them on statin drugs to ‘prevent’ a future risk. WHY? Doctors have a legal and ethical requirement to treat an illness or disease when they become aware of it.

Borderline high total cholesterol has been defined as 200-239 mg/dL. High total cholesterol is defined as anything over 240 mg/dL. Some doctors believe that your cholesterol will increase as you grow older and they want to start treating the disease before it appears. They are treating a potential symptom that may occur in the future and not the cause of increasing cholesterol levels.

Two of the primary components of cholesterol are LDL and HDL. Cholesterol is made up of five groups of lipoproteins. The smallest are chylomicrons followed in increasing size by VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein), IDL (intermediate density lipoprotein), LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and HDL (high-density lipoprotein). LDL is considered as ’bad’ cholesterol and HDL is “good” cholesterol.

LDL cholesterol levels are defined as follows: Extremely high LDL is 190 mg/dL or above; high LDL is 160-189 mg/dL; borderline LDL is 130-159 mg/dL; and, near-ideal LDL is 100-129 mg/dL. It is interesting that two other levels are defined for people with a high risk of heart disease.

For people at risk of heart disease, LDL cholesterol should be below 100 mg/dL. For people at remarkably high risk of heart disease, LDL cholesterol should be below 70 mg/dL. A high risk of heart disease is someone who has had a previous heart attack or stroke.

It also includes artery blockages detected in your carotid (neck) and peripheral (arms and/or legs) arteries. The following activities are also contained in the definition of a high risk of heart disease: smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, family history of early heart disease and age – older than 45 for men and older than 55 for women.

HDL cholesterol has been defined by the following levels. Poor HDL cholesterol is below 40 mg/dL for men and 50 mg/dL for women. ‘Better’ HDL is defined as 50-59 mg/dL. The ‘best’ HDL is defined as 60 mg/dL or above. HDL cholesterol has been shown to reduce or lessen the build-up of plaque on your artery walls.
Many doctors will look at the results and then evaluate the ratio of total cholesterol to the HDL level. The optimal ratio is less than 3.5. Anything over 3.5 is an increased risk of future heart problems.

For most of my life, my total cholesterol ran between 104-114 mg/dL. I was worried about having too little cholesterol in my body. I asked many flight surgeons and family doctors and never could get a definitive answer until decades later – anything below 90 mg/dL is considered something to be concerned about.

My ratio was always good. I would eat all the foods that contained cholesterol and never had high cholesterol – cheese, bacon, eggs, hamburgers, dark meat chicken, pork chops, butter, ice cream, and more. It did not matter what I ate, my total cholesterol rarely rose above 114 mg/dL. I believe it is genetics.

Our bodies produce cholesterol when needed. If our diet is low in cholesterol, it will be produced. If we eat a lot of high-cholesterol foods, the body’s production of cholesterol is reduced.

Statin drugs are dangerous – read the side effects. Statin drugs are linked to chronic fatigue, liver damage, muscle pain, nausea, lowered mental performance, cardiomyopathy (deterioration of your heart’s function), heart problems (depletion of coenzyme Q 10 in your heart – which can cause congestive heart failure) and even death.

Statin drugs include Lipitor, Lescol, Livalo, Pravachol, Crestor, Lovastatin, and Zocor. There are some non-statin drugs that are prescribed to lower LDL cholesterol – Locholest, Prevalite, Questran, WelChol, and Colestid. These drugs attach themselves to the bile acids in the intestines and lower overall LDL levels.

The non-statin drugs have side effects also – excessive uric acid in the blood that can increase the risk of kidney stones, gout, and tendon rupture, respiratory infections, anemia, and elevated liver enzymes.
You will feel older and look older if you take statin drugs for a long time. They sap your strength.

Fatigue results in weight gain and other health problems. Are these side effects worth a perceived lowering of your risk of heart disease caused by high levels of cholesterol?

If half the people who die from a heart attack have healthy levels of cholesterol, why take a drug that has side effects that can do you real harm? If the statin drug is used to control cholesterol which many doctors believe will cause or increase the risk of heart disease, why not use another test for heart health?

I have the homocysteine level blood test done on every annual physical. It used to be the ‘gold’ standard for heart health. The ratio of omega 6 fatty acids to omega 3 fatty acids is the current gold standard for heart health according to PubMed and other sources. Any ratio below 4:1 is considered healthy. The Standard American Diet can approach 50:1 omega 6 fatty acids to omega 3 fatty acids.

So, what else can you do? Talk to your doctor about the risks and other options. Changing your lifestyle and diet for six months and having a cholesterol retest might be an option for your doctor to monitor your progress in reducing cholesterol.

Here are a few things to consider: short bursts of high-intensity exercise (at least twelve minutes a day), reduce the number of carbohydrates you eat – especially refined grains and sugars, eat foods rich in omega-3 oil (fish, nuts, etc.), supplement using vitamin B3 (niacin) – consider using a sustained-release variety, but no more than 500 mg/day, eat more soluble fibers (oatmeal, beans, fruits, vegetables, etc.), and lose weight (if you are overweight).

Again, I am not a doctor. I am relating the data found in researching this topic. Never stop taking a prescription medicine without informing your doctor. Do not start any new health regimen especially if taking prescription medicines without consulting your physician.

Life Longer & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughin – RedOLaughlin.com


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