BY: MICHAEL LEWIS, MD
Cholesterol causes aren’t what we thought. And it’s more than just a total cholesterol count of 200 or less. It’s also more than our LDLs (low density lipoproteins) too – even though they can be as sticky to your arteries as gum stuck to the soles of your shoes on a hot day! Times are changing and so is the research. There’s newer research putting emphasis on particle size! Not how much it is, but how big it is? In this case, size matters. However, the research is evolving so we will just stick with the basics. We know that only 10% of our cholesterol in our body comes from the cholesterol we eat. Huh? That’s not what we were told 20 years ago. The majority of cholesterol comes from the fat in our diets and sugars (carbohydrates) that we consume. So, if you want to lower your cholesterol, lower your carb and fat intake. Now for the shocker. We were told for years that high cholesterol causes heart attacks. We know now, that it only contributes.
FACT: 50% of patients who have had a heart attack have normal cholesterol.
What? So then what’s killing them? Inflammation! Inflammation is the nidus or focus found at the very beginning of diseases like cancer, arthritis, diabetes and yes, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Then, does treating cholesterol really help? Of course it does as it will lower your risk for heart disease significantly. So what do we do? Lower your weight. Eat less carbohydrates (breads, juices, sodas, rice, tortillas, starches, simple sugars), choose better carbs (see glycemic index: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-d epth/glycemic-index-diet/art-20048478), perform mild exercise (30 minutes, 3 days per week), and see if you need medicine – ask your doctor for a Fasting Lipid Panel. I get this question a lot: Is red yeast rice a safe alternative to Statins such as Lipitor (atorvastatin) or Zocor (simvastatin)? Actually, Red Yeast Rice IS a naturally occurring statin. Therefore it can have the same side effects as any statin on the market. Unfortunately, Red Yeast Rice isn’t FDA approved and there can be pill-to-pill variance amongst the doses. So be careful and let your doctor or health professional know what you are taking so a liver panel blood test can be performed.
TIP: Fish oils, specifically omega 3 fatty acids have been proven to lower cholesterol and reduce inflammation. I would AVOID Flax seed/oil, Cod liver oil and other omega 6 and 9 fatty acids. Though they can be good for cholesterol, they PROMOTE inflammation. And we don’t need any more of that! If you like Flax seed, switch to Chia seed (yes the same chia as the Chia pet (r)). It contains the highest plant based omega 3 fatty acid per serving on the market. If you don’t want to take pills or flax, then choose the appropriate fish:
S.M.A.S.H. (Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovies, Sardines, Herring).