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Why Lowering Cholesterol Won’t Prevent Heart Disease (And What You Should Do Instead)

Published on April 9, 2013,

Nutritionist Dr Jonny Bowden believes “Trying to prevent heart disease by lowering cholesterol is like trying to prevent obesity by cutting the lettuce out of your Big Mac.” Along with cardiologist Stephan Sinatra he recently write the book “The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Cholesterol Won’t Prevent Heart Disease and the Statin-Free Plan That Will” and believes the very idea that cholesterol causes heart disease is one of the most indestructible and damaging myths in medical history and stops us taking the action we really need to fight heart disease. This is from Jonny Bowden’s website…

The Great Cholesterol Myth

First, let’s start with some surprising facts…

  • Cholesterol is a minor player in heart disease
  • Cholesterol levels are a poor predictor of heart attacks
  • Half of heart attacks happen to people with normal cholesterol
  • Half the people with elevated cholesterol have healthy hearts
  • Lowering cholesterol has an extremely limited benefit

…So if cholesterol isn’t the cause of heart disease, what is?

The Real Cause of Heart Disease

Here’s the short answer: The primary cause of heart disease isinflammation. Small injuries to the vascular wall that can be caused by anything from high blood pressure to toxins attract all sorts of metabolic riff-raff, from bacteria to oxidized (damaged) LDL particles; the immune system sends inflammatory cytokines to the area, and more oxidation and inflammation takes place eventually resulting in the growth of plaque and, ultimately, to an increased risk for heart disease. If there were no inflammation, the arteries would be clear.

The following is my seven point program for reducing the risk of heart disease. Note that lowering cholesterol isn’t on it. Note also that managing stress is.

Stress is a powerful contributor to heart disease. The stress hormones create inflammatory events that may explain why 40% of atherosclerotic patients have no other risk factors.

Pay attention to these seven action items, and you just may find that you don’t need to worry quite so much about cholesterol after all.

Eat an anti-inflammatory diet. The fruit and vegetable kingdom is teeming with natural anti-inflammatories like quercetin (apples and onions) and curcumin (turmeric). Drink green tea and pomegranate juice. Balance your protein and fat with tons of vegetables. And eat dark chocolate—it’s cocoa flavanols help lower blood pressure and keep the cardiovascular system healthy.

Reduce grains, starches, sugar and omega-6’s (vegetable oils).  Every one of these has the power to increase inflammation—a lot!

Manage Your Stress. Stress is an enormous risk factor for heart disease, and is inflammatory as well. Find a way to manage it. Anything from regular walks in the park to deep breathing exercises to warm baths can help.

Exercise. It’s probably the best anti-aging (and heart protective) drug on the planet

Drink only in moderation. And if you don’t process the word “moderation” very well, don’t drink at all.

Don’t smoke. Probably the number one recommendation for heart disease prevention.

Supplement with antioxidants, vitamin C, Coenzyme Q10, omega-3’scurcumincitrus bergamontAntioxidants like vitamin C protect against oxidative damage (one of the promoters of heart disease) while omega-3’s are one of the most anti-inflammatory molecule on earth. Curcumin does just about everything—it’s an anti-inflammatory andantioxidant.

More at:  Why Lowering Cholesterol Won’t Prevent Heart Disease

Low cholesterol associated with enhanced risk of death in heart failure patients

Published on October 29, 2012,

As has been said on this site before, conventional wisdom assures us that high cholesterol is bad for the heart and, the same wisdom follows, high cholesterol is encouraged by a low carb, high fat diet. Therefore, conventional wisdom dictates, a low carb diet is bad for the heart. But more and more evidence is suggesting the reality is more likely the opposite to this. Here’s an interesting assessment from Dr Briffa of new research from the US looking at levels of cholesterol and the risk of death…

cholesterol

cholesterol (Photo credit: droolcup)

While raised cholesterol levels are often said to be bad news for the heart, I was interested to read a recently published piece of research which assessed the relationship between cholesterol levels and health outcomes in individuals suffering from heart failure. In this US-based study, about 2,500 people were assessed for an average of almost 3 years [1]. The researchers compared levels of supposedly unhealthy low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and overall risk of death during the period of the study.

What the researchers found is that individuals with LDL-C cholesterol levels < 1.84 mmol/l (71 mg/dl ) were, overall, at a 68 per cent increased risk of death compared to individuals whose LDL-C levels were significantly higher (> 3.36 mmol/l = 130 mg/dl).

This study, though, is not a one-off. Previous research has also linked lower levels of cholesterol with worse outcomes in those suffering from heart failure. In one study published in 2006, lower levels of total cholesterol were found to be associated with increased risk of death in patients with heart failure. The authors of this study concluded that: “Further research is necessary to determine the nature of this relationship, optimal lipid levels, and the therapeutic role, if any, of statins in patients with established [heart failure].”

I think the caution these researchers advise in the use of statins in individuals with heart failure is relevant for two reasons. Firstly, statins may reduce cholesterol to levels associated with worse outcomes. Secondly, though, statins can deplete the body of the nutrient coenzyme Q10. Coenzyme Q10 contributes to muscle function, and low levels of it can conceivably compromise the functioning of the heart (the heart is a muscle, after all). The last thing we want to be doing, in my opinion, is weakening a muscle that is, by definition, already weakened.

More and full references at: Low cholesterol associated with enhanced risk of death in heart failure patients

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