Originally published March 20 2009
Dispel the Myths: High Cholesterol is Not to Blame for Heart Disease
by Elizabeth Walling
(NaturalNews) Most people react to being told they have high cholesterol in the same way they would if they were told they have cancer. Somehow the idea of having high cholesterol can strike deep fear into the heart of a person. After all, doesn't a high cholesterol reading mean you are a walking heart attack waiting to happen?
That's what we've been told for decades by the media and the medical profession, but more recently evidence is coming to light that says high cholesterol may not be an accurate predictor of heart attack. This may come as a shock to anyone who has followed the idea that lowering your cholesterol will prevent heart disease. In fact, such ideas prevent people from looking at the big picture: there are many risk factors associated with heart disease, and putting all of the blame on cholesterol causes people to ignore other more prevalent factors.
Most people are familiar with the terms "good" cholesterol and "bad" cholesterol. HDL is considered good cholesterol, while LDL is considered bad. High LDL levels may not be as much of a risk factor if HDL levels are also high. In the same way, low HDL levels and moderate LDL may show up as a low cholesterol reading, but it might be a more dangerous arrangement than overall high cholesterol numbers.
In addition, traditional cholesterol readings do not look at the possible variations in LDL cholesterol particles. LDL is considered the "bad" cholesterol, but this is only half true. In simple terms, LDL particles can be either small or large. Large particles seem to do little harm in the body while small LDL particles do more serious damage and may be a more reliable predictor of heart disease.
It's important to keep in mind that one of cholesterol's many duties is to repair lesions in the arteries. So, the reality is that cholesterol in the arteries is a symptom of heart problems more than an actual cause. It does not actually travel to the heart just to stick to the walls of your arteries and give you heart disease. Cholesterol is really in your arteries because of damage that has already been incurred.
If high cholesterol itself was a clear predictor of heart attack, then you must assume that lowing cholesterol levels is an effective way to prevent heart attacks. This is simply not true. Looking at the combined results of more than 40 different trials which looked at whether lowering cholesterol levels reduced the occurrence of heart disease, you might be surprised at the results. Analysis shows there were similar rates of heart attack and overall mortality both in the groups who lowered their cholesterol and in those who did not.
A study done at the University Hospital in Toronto looked at 120 men who had previously had a heart attack. The study showed men with high cholesterol or low cholesterol were equally likely to have a second heart attack. Another Canadian study followed 5,000 men for twelve years and could not find a link between high cholesterol and heart attack.
A study called the Honolulu Heart Program was published in 2001. It looked at more than 8,000 individuals and made this statement: "Long-term persistence of low cholesterol concentration actually increases the risk of death. Thus, the earlier the patients start to have lower cholesterol concentrations, the greater the risk of death."
Of course, cholesterol levels shouldn't be ignored entirely. It's important to have an accurate picture of your overall health, and very high cholesterol may be an indicator of other risk factors. But simply lowering your cholesterol may not prevent the onset of heart disease. By taking some of the heat off cholesterol, people can truly take charge of their health by minimizing other risk factors such as stress, obesity and inactivity.
About the authorElizabeth Walling is a freelance writer specializing in health and family nutrition. She is a strong believer in natural living as a way to improve health and prevent modern disease. She enjoys thinking outside of the box and challenging common myths about health and wellness. You can visit her blog to learn more:
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