The Great Cholesterol Myth!
Could this also be the reason for depression?
The real reason why Cholesterol levels rise and what it means?
How many of us have been told by our doctor that we have elevated levels of Cholesterol and that we must now be on medication for this for the rest of our lives in order to control it? This happened to me in 2009. I started taking simavastatin (statins) ‘which will lower Cholesterol’. Great right? – Wrong!!!
Elevated Cholesterol is a ‘symptomatic’ sign in the body that something may not be in balance. Why? What does cholesterol actually do?
With all of the bad publicity Cholesterol gets, people are often surprised to learn that it’s actually necessary for our existence. What’s also surprising is that our bodies produce Cholesterol naturally, but Cholesterol isn’t all good, nor is it all bad.
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a substance made in the liver that’s vital to human life. You can also get Cholesterol through foods. Since it can’t be created by plants, you can only find it in animal products like meat and dairy.
Things You Didn’t Know About Cholesterol
In our bodies, Cholesterol serves three main purposes:
It aids in the production of sex hormones.
It’s a building block for human tissues.
It assists in VITAL bile production in the liver to break down fats and absorption.
These are important functions, all dependent on the presence of Cholesterol, but too much of a good thing isn’t good at all.
LDL vs HDL
When people talk about Cholesterol, they often use the terms LDL and HDL. Both are lipoproteins, which are compounds made of fat and protein that are responsible for carrying Cholesterol throughout the body in the blood.
LDL is low-density lipoprotein, often called ‘bad’ Cholesterol.
HDL is high-density lipoprotein, or ‘good’ Cholesterol.
Why LDL has got a bad name and referred to as ‘bad’.
Too much of it can lead to hardening of the arteries. According to the American Heart Association, LDL leads to plaque accumulation on the walls of your arteries. When this plaque builds up, it can cause two separate and equally bad, issues:
Firstly it can narrow the blood vessels, straining the flow of oxygen-rich blood throughout the body.
Secondly it can lead to blood clots, which can break loose and block the flow of blood, causing a heart attack or stroke.
LDL is the one you want to keep low — ideally less than 100mgs per decilitre. Think of LDL Cholesterol as a life saver. It actually works as a repair mechanism to ensure that damage to the lining of the arteries through inflammation and toxins (especially from animal protein) are repaired. This is rather like moving heavy furniture and bashing the wall going through a doorway. You then have to repair with filler to restore the original appearance. However once this repair is done we then need to sand down this filler to be able to ensure it blends in with the surrounding area ready for the final painting and complete restoration. LDL is the ‘filler’ and HDL is the ‘sanding and finishing’ of the job.
Why is HDL good?
HDL helps keep your cardiovascular system healthy and aids in the removal of LDL from the arteries. It carries the LDL Cholesterol back to the liver where it’s broken down and eliminated from the body.
High levels of HDL have also been shown to protect against stroke and heart attack, while low HDL has been shown to increase those risks. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), HDL levels of 60mg/dl and higher are considered protective, while those under 40mg/dl are a risk factor for heart disease.
Total Cholesterol Goals
When you have your Cholesterol checked, you’ll receive measurements for both your HDL and LDL, but also for your total Cholesterol and triglycerides. An ideal total Cholesterol level is lower than 200mg/dl. Anything between 200 and 239mg/dl is borderline and anything above 240mg/dl is high.
Triglyceride is another type of fat in your blood. Like Cholesterol, too much is a bad thing, but experts are still unclear on the specifics of these fats. High triglycerides usually accompany high Cholesterol and are associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Doctors generally weigh the importance of your triglyceride count against other measurements like obesity, Cholesterol levels etc.
Keeping These Numbers In Check
There are several things that influence your Cholesterol numbers, some of which you have control over. While heredity may play a role, so do diet, weight and exercise.Eating foods that are low in Cholesterol (plant based) and saturated fats, moving regularly and managing your weight are all associated with lower Cholesterol levels and lower risks of cardiovascular disease.
According to a paper published by the Mayo Clinic, side effects of Cholesterol-lowering drugs include:
Muscle pain and damage. (This happened to me.)
Liver damage – occasionally, statin use could cause an increase in the level of enzymes that signal liver inflammation and reduced bile secretion. This can start a chain reaction of other health problems.
Increased blood sugar or Type 2 Diabetes, thanks to the liver producing less bile for absorption. This can go on to produce other problems with bloating, constipation, internal bleeding, IBS, heart disease and different cancers.
Neurological side effects – the brain relies on a good supply of Cholesterol for healthy cognitive function. Artificially dropping Cholesterol could lead to reduced cognitive function brain fog, or even dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Mood disorders are rife with depression and anxiety top of the list. Most people will take an anti-depressant in the hope of finding relief from this debilitating condition, only to compound an already broken chain of events where statins could well be the trigger for mood changes and depression.
Before you want a ‘cure’ for your high Cholesterol, it may be a good time to think about why it is high and how you can naturally reduce the numbers without the need for damaging medication. When I was placed on statins for 18 months I had no symptoms other than lowered Cholesterol. I changed nothing else in my diet. I had such bad muscle pain after 18 months that I was no longer able to play golf as it became impossible to get my arms over my head and my thighs were constantly in pain. The pain was so bad I could hardly sleep in any position. A blood test diagnosed borderline ‘rhabdomyolysis’. I had muscle breakdown so advanced that I was literally urinating my muscles through my kidneys. I was lucky as it appeared not to have affected the heart muscle. After stopping the statin medication it was a further 9 months before the muscle pain was gone. I restarted my golf game, but, as anyone who had played with me will know, I was nowhere near my 6 handicap I played 18 months previously!
If your Cholesterol is high, adopting a plant-based diet and eliminating, as far as possible, all refined sugars in products like bread, cereals, pasta, biscuits, waffle, cakes, ice cream etc, you can naturally reduce inflammation in the arteries and stop the need for continual repairs from LDL and this will be the best way to naturally combat the diagnoses of high Cholesterol.
As with all my research, do not change or alter your prescription medication without discussing your concerns with your doctor first.
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