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Are Conventional Treatments for Heart Disease Wrong?

Millions of Americans have high cholesterol and take statin medication. But new studies show these individuals may be vastly over-medicated. Find out about this new research below.
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According to data released by the CDC in their annual health report, about one in four adults over the age of 45 is taking statin medication to lower cholesterol and reduce heart disease risk. In individuals older than 65, the number of people on statins is even higher, with about half of all senior citizens on statin medication.

Statins are medication designed to lower cholesterol. The medication prevents the body from making cholesterol and also removes some existing cholesterol from the walls of the arteries. Statins work as cholesterol clean-up crews to remove the substance from your body. However, although it sounds like a good idea to remove cholesterol that can lead to blockages, heart attacks, and other health problems, addressing the symptoms only, and not the cause, could be dangerous.

Side Effects of Statin Medication

In 2010, a review of over 900 studies on statins found that the medication may have more harmful side effects than previously thought. According to the study authors, statins can have dangerous side effects including:

  • Liver dysfunction
  • Renal failure
  • Myopathy
  • Cataracts
  • Immune system suppression (cholesterol production is part of the body’s immune response)
  • Muscle tissue damage
  • Anemia
  • Memory loss

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is an immune system response that is a sort of healing balm used inside the body to treat oxidation and other damage to the blood vessels. At normal levels, cholesterol is highly beneficial to the body. The most dangerous form of cholesterol is LDL cholesterol, which has smaller particles that can get trapped in blood vessels and cause oxidative damage.

However, when the body is constantly under attack, it produces too much cholesterol that clogs the blood vessels and leads to plaque build-up. The body is responding the way it should to damaged blood vessels, but because there is so much damage, cholesterol builds up and causes problems on its own. This is why high cholesterol levels can indicate a higher risk for problems such as heart attack or stroke.

What is the Ideal Cholesterol Range?

According to the National Institutes for Health, the ideal cholesterol range for adults is as follows: 

Ideal Cholesterol Levels
  • Total cholesterol: 200mg/dL
  • LDL cholesterol (the bad kind): Less than 100mg/dL
  • HDL cholesterol (the good kind): 60 mg/dL and higher
  • Triglyceride levels: Less than 150 mg/dL

In fact, the NIH states that the higher your HDL cholesterol number is the better. Low levels of HDL cholesterol are more likely to cause heart problems than high levels. However, low numbers for total cholesterol, tryglycerides, and LDL cholesterol are better.

What Causes High Cholesterol?

According to conventional medical recommendations, a diet high in salt, meat, and animal fats are behind high cholesterol. However, today’s adults consume far less animal fats than previous generations, yet heart disease rates and cholesterol levels remain high. The data shows there is more to keeping cholesterol levels in check than simply removing animal fats from the diet.

Simple Sugars

According to the American Heart Association, a diet high in simple sugars are most likely to cause high triglyceride levels, such as carbohydrates, sugar, and alcohol. Trans Fats Trans fats are linked with an increase in LDL cholesterol and a reduction in HDL cholesterol. Trans fats will be banned in all foods within a few years, but as of today, most processed foods contain trans fats. Any form of hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil (shortening) contains high levels of trans fats. Obesity The NIH also states that being overweight can raise cholesterol levels, even if you are only slightly overweight.

Oxidized Oil

Oxidized foods are unable to be used by the body, which increases inflammation. When food is oxidized, the body must take steps to remove the spoiled food from the body as soon as possible. Consuming a lot of oxidized oil and oxidized foods (anything burned) will raise your cholesterol levels because your body has to work harder to repair the oxidation damage from spoiled foods.

One of the biggest modern culprits for oxidation is cooking oil. Many of the vegetable oils used today are not designed to handle high heat. When they are used during frying, they oxidize, which quickly raises cholesterol levels trying to repair the damage the oil has done. Additionally, some oils are oxidized during the manufacturing process, where they are heated to unstable temperatures. If you eat a lot of fried foods and vegetable oils, one of the easiest ways to lower your cholesterol is to stop eating them.

What Won’t Raise Cholesterol?

According to recent studies, the following “bad” foods will not raise cholesterol and may actually have beneficial effects in the body.

Eating Cholesterol

Conventional medical advice has indicated that a diet full of foods containing cholesterol (animal products, mostly) and a lot of salt in the diet will contribute to heart disease. However, recent studies have shown that no matter how much cholesterol you eat, your body will not produce more than 25 percent more cholesterol. When you eat more cholesterol, your body actually produces less cholesterol to balance what you have eaten. Eliminating cholesterol-bearing foods will have little to no effect on your cholesterol levels and heart disease risk.

Heat-Stable Oils

Some oils are heat-stable to much higher temperatures. The following oils are safe to eat at higher temperatures:

  • Avocado oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Ghee (clarified butter)
  • Animal fat Lard (not hydrogenated lard, however)
  • Palm Oil
  • Some nut oils

Cholesterol Can be Too Low

We discussed earlier how cholesterol is a healing response of the immune system. What happens when you take away a healing substance? You get sicker. This can happen if your cholesterol levels get too low. According to an old clinical trial published in 1965 testing the health benefits of corn oil (this was right before vegetable oils were commonly used as a replacement for animal fats), lowering cholesterol too low is more damaging than keeping it at a moderate level.

In the study, men with heart disease were given corn oil to eat each day for three years. The study authors compared the health of the men eating corn oil to that of men with heart disease who did not eat corn oil at the end of the study. The authors found that men who ate the corn oil had low cholesterol, but they had twice as many heart attacks and died twice as often as the men who did not take corn oil.

How to Prevent Heart Disease Naturally

Heart disease is simply a symptom of not taking care of your body and giving it what it needs for optimal survival. Heart disease is fully preventable with diet and exercise. Make the following changes to your lifestyle and you should see your cholesterol levels start to drop (if they are too high) or rise (if they are too low).

Exercise

Exercise improves the function of the heart and makes it easier for blood to circulate through your system. This is a huge benefit in keeping your heart healthy. Additionally, exercise helps you burn more calories, which contributes to a trimmer waistline and fewer weight-related cholesterol spikes. Most health experts recommend exercising for at least 30 minutes a day 4-6 times a week. You can also introduce focused high-intensity workouts about once a week which will give your heart an even bigger boost.

Diet

Studies show that the low-fat, carbohydrate-high, and sugar-rich diet that many Americans eat today is the worst possible thing you can eat for heart health. Carbs and sugars are directly responsible for raising unhealthy cholesterol levels. Instead, replace these damaging foods with healing ones. Vegetables You can not go wrong with a diet filled with vegetables. Vegetables are high in carbohydrates, but they are complex and are accompanied by proteins and vitamins that benefit the body in multiple ways. Try to eat at least 2 servings of vegetables with every meal.

Healthy Fats

Fats are essential to health. Too little fat in the body and you have trouble with hormone production and with the absorption of some vitamins and minerals. Never eat trans fats and minimize vegetable fats. Only use heat-stable fats (like coconut) for cooking. Animal fats can also be consumed freely, as long as you don’t have more than 40-50 percent of your diet coming from fat.

Protein

Meat is not unhealthy, and provides some nutrients you can only get from animal products. However, conventionally-raised meat is unhealthy. Look for grass-fed, pasture-raised animal products that get to live a healthy lifestyle themselves, with plenty of room to roam and no hormone or antibiotic additives.

Vitamins and Supplements

If you have high cholesterol, you may need to supplement with cholesterol-fighting supplements and vitamins to get inflammation under control.

Supplements that Lower Cholesterol
  • Niacin
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Curcumin
  • Ginger
  • Artichoke leaf
  • Garlic
  • Vitamin E
  • Ginsing
  • Gum guggul

Statin Drugs Not Necessary for All

Although traditional medical advice says that foods high in cholesterol, fat, and salt are all major contributors to heart disease, recent scientific studies have not supported these claims. In fact, in the 2015 USDA Dietary Guidelines, the USDA did not recommend removing cholesterol from the diet for the first time since the publication of the guidelines.

Slowly, everyday health knowledge is catching up to what the most recent scientific studies show, which is important to truly understanding our health and how to prevent preventable diseases such as heart disease and high cholesterol. For now, avoid sugars, grains, vegetable oils, and trans fats to keep your cholesterol levels in the healthy range.

Sources


http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/statin-use-is-up-cholesterol-levels-are-down-are-americans-hearts-benefiting-201104151518

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus14.pdf

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20488911

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