We hear about high LDL cholesterol over and over. Maybe to the point where the message gets lost in the sheer volume of noise that goes through our minds everyday. I know that I dismissed it as not too important.
But as I began researching causes of high blood pressure and the conditions that lead to heart disease, I realized just how important it is to understand high LDL cholesterol numbers.
When I received the results of my most recent physical, it became even more crystallized for me. High LDL cholesterol counts were the only negative on the report.
Your body actually needs a healthy dose of cholesterol. The liver produces all that your body needs. Cholesterol makes up more than half of each cell and protects the cell core while also maintaining cell wall permeability. It also helps provide Vitamin D and is an essential ingredient in hormone production.
That all sounds good. So why the concern about high cholesterol? Because our lifestyles often cause damage that upsets the balance of proper levels.
There is a division of sorts. They've been broken down into high density and low density versions based on the size of the particles. Cholesterol teams up with protein to form "lipoprotein" That is where the "L" comes from. The first two letters denote density. High density being bigger than low density.
There are two types. High density lipoprotein, (HDL), is known as the good cholesterol. Up to a full third of blood cholesterol is carried by this type as it moves cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver for disposal. It seems to also help wipe away some excess plaque from arterial walls.
Low density lipoprotein, (LDL), has been named bad cholesterol. These smaller lipoproteins could embed into the walls of the arteries. Over time plaque deposits build up tending to lower the elasticity of the arterial walls. Our arteries are designed to expand when needed to allow more blood flow during exercise or dangerous times when the body's fight or flight instinct takes over because of adrenaline.
As the so-called high LDL cholesterol counts grow and they begin to imbed in the walls of your arteries causing inflammation, your body will send in white blood cells to fight this problem. This is what leads to that plaque build up. And this leads to atherosclerosis, also known as hardening of the arteries.
And over time parts of this buildup can break away and travel through the bloodstream. In some people, nothing ever happens. But this floating plaque caused initially by high LDL cholesterol can cause a blood clot in your arteries. A major cause of stroke or heart attack. Time is of the essence in this situation. You need to know what to do if you even think you may be having a heart attack.
You now know "the what." So how do we fix it? If you read the causes of high blood pressure you already know part of the answer. Better diet and exercise can reverse the high LDL cholesterol counts and raise the good cholesterol.
The diet won't be as much fun as a cheeseburger and fries with a chocolate malt. But it will be more fun than a heart attack.
There was some research done back in the late 1950's called The Seven Countries Study. The conclusions suggested that saturated fat was a major driver of heart disease. Since then there has been more work done in this area.
It has become quite evident that the real culprits in the exploding numbers of heart disease, stroke and diabetes are actually trans fats, far too much sugar and a massive overdose of processed foods.
We now know that inflammation is a much bigger cause of heart disease, but as we mentioned above, those low density lipoproteins can increase the risk of inflammation.
So we have at our disposal a diverse diet program that actually promotes eating healthy fats and eliminating trans fats and processed foods. It suggests increased levels of omega 3 and much lower intake of sugar. And it boosts the level of those high density lipoproteins.
This diverse program is the Mediterranean diet. When you go through both sides of the discussion about reducing high LDL cholesterol or focusing on eliminating low fat diets, the answer always end up right back here. This diet plan answers both questions.
Which leads to just one more big question.
This is a tough one for me to write about because of the sheer volume of people who take these drugs. The side effects seem pretty dangerous and the results not so conclusive. I wrote a full page about statins.
One of the editions in the list of classic books located in the left margin is written by Dr. Chauncey Crandall. The title is"Fix It.". He is all about getting people better and getting them off medication if possible and on the path to a healthy lifestyle. His book is a must read.
So I'm beginning the journey to lower bad counts. My good counts are already in the high range which is a blessing. But the direction is clear. If you are in this group, your path is equally visible. I'm improving the diet right away and getting rid of the "silent killer" enabling foods. And I'm picking up the pace on the exercise regimen. It is pretty simple. Not easy, but simple. But as Mark Twain told us in that sub headline,the secret is getting started.
Bad cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and many forms of kidney disease are avoidable and reverse-able. Add daily exercise to your commitment to the Mediterranean diet
We're on a mission to help people live a long, healthy life by assisting the body to heal itself whenever possible. As with most things, it all starts with the man in the mirror. I'll keep you informed on progress as I go after this high LDL cholesterol challenge.
I would contemplate nothing less than success. For myself and any of you with this temporary obstacle.