Thoughts on Better Aging

What You Really Need to Know About Cholesterol, Statins and Your Heart

May 9th, 2019

Cholesterol is not a bad word—and it’s not bad for your body

Are you worried about your cholesterol? Maybe your doctor has told you that you have “high” cholesterol and that this could affect your heart health. Perhaps you have even been prescribed statins to lower your cholesterol.

It’s time to learn the truth about cholesterol, statins, and your heart.

Your Body Needs Cholesterol

In and of itself, cholesterol is not bad. In fact, your body needs cholesterol for cell repair, hormone production, digestion, Vitamin D production, immune function, and brain health. Cholesterol is actually produced by your body in response to inflammation, as part of the healing process.

Cholesterol Doesn’t Come from Food

About 80 percent of the cholesterol your body needs is produced naturally. This is a good thing because in most people, only a small amount of the cholesterol in the blood comes from food.

For many years, we have been told that eating fatty foods increases cholesterol and causes heart disease, but the evidence for this conclusion is simply not there. Some older studies were based on data hand-picked to support this claim, but recent studies have found no direct relation between total fat intake and heart disease risk.

How High is Too High?

The American Heart Association considers total blood cholesterol levels of 200 mg/dL or greater “too high.” However, according to experts in lipid biochemistry, blood cholesterol levels of 200 to 240 are normal. It’s also normal for older women to have even higher levels. For the purposes of judging heart disease risk, anything under 330 mg/dL should not be a concern.

Watch Out for Low Cholesterol

Having been told their cholesterol is dangerously high, many Americans are taking steps to reduce their cholesterol, such as avoiding fat and cholesterol in their diet or even taking medications. This may be unnecessary or even outright dangerous. When “good” HDL cholesterol dips too low, it can cause changes in brain chemistry as well as cancer. Among seniors, low cholesterol actually increases death rates.

The Trouble with Statins

Cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins are prescribed by well-meaning doctors who want to protect patients’ heart health. Unfortunately, some studies show that statins are only marginally more effective at preventing heart attacks than a placebo. Worse still, statins can actually put your heart at risk by blocking production of certain nutrients that your body needs for heart and muscle health, such as CoQ10. Statins also come with numerous possible side effects including cognitive problems, peripheral neuropathy, headaches, nausea, and more.

How to Maintain Healthy Cholesterol

Inflammation is one of the biggest contributors to high cholesterol, because the body increases cholesterol production in response to inflammation. A poor diet consisting of lots of sugar and processed foods with few fresh, whole foods is a top cause of inflammation. Therefore, a healthy diet is the key to maintaining healthy cholesterol. Avoid inflammatory foods like sugar, alcohol, and trans fats. But don’t cut out fats entirely—your body needs healthy fats and sources of dietary cholesterol like eggs. Eggs contain nutrients like choline and lutein that can actually protect against cancer and heart disease. Getting regular exercise, managing stress in your life, limiting alcohol, and quitting smoking are also vital for managing cholesterol.

If you would like to learn more about protecting your heart health, contact Renew Youth today.

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