High Cholesterol & Diabetes
Having already discussed some of the myths surrounding cholesterol being “good” or “bad” (see Heart Disease tab) it is important to address some other myths surrounding this condition and the common mistakes made when the majority of practitioners run your cholesterol blood work.
Before we can go into this, we first must give some background knowledge on how the body works. If you remember, cholesterol is fat-soluble and therefore can not travel through the blood by itself. Instead, your body needs to transport the cholesterol through the bloodstream by a special protein called a lipoprotien. These lipoproteins are classified as either LDL (Low density) or HDL (High density). The difference between these two is how much cholesterol is attached. Low Density has more cholesterol and less protien, and High Density has more protein less cholesterol. When you think of a lipoprotein in the body think of it as being a car that drives the cholesterol and fat (the people in the car) through the blood and to its destination. Scientists used to believe it was the number of passengers in the car (the concentration of cholesterol in the LDL particle) that caused heart disease however, more recent research shows that it’s not the amount of passengers in the car (the amount of cholesterol in the body) rather it’s the amount of cars on the road (LDL particles) that leads to significant heart disease risks. When you think about it this way it makes perfect sense. What is the determining factor for a traffic jam on the highway (blockage in the arteries)? The number of passengers in the cars (cholesterol), or the number of cars on the road (LDL particles)?
Typically when you go to your doctor to get your cholesterol levels tested they will measure your total LDL and HDL concentrations in the blood. This information tells them how much cholesterol (passengers) are inside of the Lipoproteins (cars), which as we just explained is not the important factor in determining your risk for heart disease. There are times when LDL cholesterol levels and LDL particle numbers will have the same relationship (more cars = more passengers) but this is not always the case. Many times you can have low cholesterol (few passengers) but more cars on the road (LDL particles) and be at high risk for heart attacks and stokes but your blood work would come back “normal”.
In fact studies show that people with high cholesterol (LDL-C) and low LDL particle number (LDL-P) are not at risk for heart disease yet they will be given the same dangerous Statin medications because the clinician only looked at the amount of cholesterol and not the particle number. The patients that are the highest risk are those who exhibit more cars on the road (LDL particles) and have metabolic syndrome (abdominal obesity, hypertension, insulin resistance, high triglycerides or full-blown type II diabetes – see diabetes prevalence below). We must always remember that cholesterol is designed by the body to help us perform very important functions. When clinicians come into the appointment with the preconceived notion that cholesterol is “bad” and they must lower it at all costs it’s a recipe for disaster as low cholesterol can cause just as many problems as high cholesterol. Especially mental disorders as 80-90% of your brain and nerve system tissue is made of fats. Here are a few samples:
A study in the American Journal of Medicine found that people over age 70 with low cholesterol (below 160 mg/dL) had twice the risk of death than those with levels between 160-199 mg/dL.
A study in The Lancet found that depression was 3 times more likely in men over 70 with low cholesterol than in those with normal or high cholesterol.
A study in the journal Neurology showed that low cholesterol is associated with increased risk of dementia.
A paper published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine linked low cholesterol levels with Alzheimer’s disease.
In our office we follow the RENEW principles to get the body back into homeostasis by improving lifestyle choices, improving nerve system function and allowing the body to begin the self healing process that it was designed to do. When treating patients with high cholesterol and diabetes we frequently see them get off of all of their high cholesterol medications as well as reverse their diabetes.