Cholesterol Framed!

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In my office, I very often visit with people looking to address their cardiovascular health and improve their cholesterol levels to avoid taking medication.  Very often, I also see people who are looking for alternatives to cholesterol medication because they experience side effects.  Muscle and joint pain is a common side effect that can be debilitating for many people.

What I have witnessed over the last decade of my practice is this growing and intense focus on cholesterol in conventional medicine.  Conventional health care providers and researchers are becoming more aggressive in their recommendations to pharmaceutically treat high cholesterol.

In conventional medicine, there is a theory that artery obstruction, which leads to heart attack and stroke, is due to a blockage of cholesterol secondary to build up.  Their way to address this is to give medication to lower cholesterol with the hope of preventing cholesterol build up in the vessels.

In my early years of science study, when I was looking toward a future in health care, this theory made sense to me.  However, I have learned that this may not be the case at all when it comes to heart attack and stroke.  Moreover, I believe more than ever that cholesterol is not the bad guy, and it seems that cholesterol has been framed.

In fact, cholesterol is a very important fatty component in our bodies.  When we have an area of the body that has become irritated or inflamed, this is like a minor injury to the body.  What is our internal band-aid?? Cholesterol.

Cholesterol helps to patch up areas of concern to facilitate healing.  Moreover, cholesterol is part of every one of the 50 trillion cells that make up our bodies.  It forms the very delicate outer layer, the cell membrane, of every cell.  Without cholesterol, our cells would disintegrate.  Fats are also needed to keep our blood vessels springy and flexible, and our joints lubricated.  Finally, our brain is composed of 60-70% fatty acids, and cholesterol is part of that mix.  Cholesterol coats the nerve cells in the brain (coating = myelin sheaths), which is an essential job because this aids in the relay of impulses that is nerve cell communication.

There are a growing number of researchers, doctors and other health care professionals that are mounting evidence that cholesterol is a very important part of the body.  Moreover, if drugs are given to lower cholesterol, the decreased levels can pose serious long term adverse effects.  Fats are a physiologically necessary part of the whole body’s structure and function.  When physiologically essential fats are lowered, we lower the supply needed for cell formation, brain function, healing, repair and countless other microscopic activities that our body relies on for good health.

When our body is lacking essential fatty acids, like cholesterol, we leave ourselves vulnerable to the development of neurological diseases (e.g. dementia, depression, anxiety, ADHD).  Moreover, if we lower the substance we use to heal our bodies internally, we leave areas of injury to go unaddressed.  Persistent injury due to inflammation and other chronic irritating processes can lead to arthritis, skin changes and immune issues.  The most concerning of this picture of poor repair in the body is that injury at the cellular level can lead to DNA injury and DNA mutation, which is the starting point for cancer cell formation.

So what about heart disease, heart attacks and stroke?  There is also growing information that the cause of these cardiovascular diseases are due to rigidity, deposits in the vessel due to injury and fragility of the arteries.  What causes rigidity, deposits and fragility in the cardiovascular system?  Chronic Inflammation.  

What causes chronic inflammation?  Our nutrition, our lifestyle choices and how well we detoxify and neutralize our internal environment.

Dr. Oz did a really good job talking about the concern around taking cholesterol (aka Statin) drugs.  The second part to his talk showed a great illustration of how useless statins are when it comes to addressing disease.

The New York Times also posted an article about the new cholesterol risk calculator that has shown to be grossly flawed and has the potential to overestimate risk.  This comes at time when doctors are already very eager to prescribe statins, and I can’t help but wonder how a tool like this may push this situation forward.

Then there’s the frightening suggestions by some doctors that everyone should be on a statin.  Gosh darn it, why not put it in our drinking water.

Thankfully, there are voices of reason in all of this swirl of interest in attacking cholesterol.  Two great books that address this are:

1) The Great Cholesterol Myth by Jonny Bowden & Stephen Sinatra

2) Grain Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter

Naturopathic Doctors have also always worked with people to address the healthy balance of cholesterol levels and cardiovascular system without prescription medication.  Often coming to visits with concerning lab results in hand, I have also worked with countless people in helping them normalize their cholesterol level through an individualized treatment plan that addressed nutrition, lifestyle, detoxification and restoration of physiological balance in their bodies.  Working together people are able to side step the statin prescription and experience optimal whole body health.

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